Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Education Stimulus Package

In a recent New York Times op-ed Paul Krugman calls for a new stimulus package aimed at our nation's schools. "If you had to explain America’s economic success with one word, that word would be 'education.'" The problem is, if the federal government just gives this money to the states they will use it to fill cracks just like the last round. I have another idea that I thought I would air out here to see if it holds water.

Many many schools, dare I say most schools, would like to have 1:1 laptop programs if money were not a critical factor. The biggest problem with 1:1 initiatives so far has been the total cost of ownership for school districts. Of which most schools report maintenance as the biggest problem. Some 1:1 schools have even been seriously considering abandoning these initiatives because of the financial stress they put on the school budget. Connect With Stillwater Public Schools recently ran this post that poses the question of whether or not a 1:1 program can be accomplished with student-owned computers:

Student-owned technology: Is there a place for it in our schools?

If the government wants to do another federal stimulus that would greatly benefit education perhaps it would be more wise to do it as a federal tax credit for families with students in k-12 or post-secondary to purchase laptops. Schools could publish their minimum requirements and suggested models and families could either use the money to buy laptops for students that meet or exceed that requirement. A small amount of federal aid could then be awarded to schools that are not yet wireless to install necessary infrastructure to make the student-owned laptops useful. The only thing a school would have to do to become a 1:1 laptop school is adjust their policy.

Since this would be done through a tax credit, states would not be able to divert the money to other budget issues. And, since the computers would be student owned, schools would not be responsible for maintenance and repair. Schools could then apply technology dollars to teacher professional development, curriculum development, or other necessary uses instead of maintaining student use computers and outfitting labs. Additionally, this would be an economic stimulus because the money spent would go back into the economy to help boost the tech sector.

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