Laptops for 7-12th graders

Available funds for technology could give students laptops with software that has CareerCenter opportunities installed for parents to access

By Ramona du Houx

April 5th, 2009 

With computer skills a must in the new economy, the sooner students are at home with the technology the better they will be positioned for the job market and further educational opportunities.

Governor Baldacci’s proposal to expand laptops for students in grades 7 to 12, announced in his State of the State address, was positively received in the Education Committee.

A major selling point: the funds are available. Money already allocated in a school technology fund would be targeted towards funding the laptop expansion program.

Almost 43,000 seventh- and eighth-graders and their teachers are now part of the state’s laptop program.

Currently Maine spends $289 per laptop per year, which includes an Apple computer, software, tech support, wireless, repairs, training for teachers, and other services. Maine’s local education funding formula allocates $275 a year per high school student for instructional technology.

The commissioner of education, Sue Gendron, negotiated a deal with Apple for $242 per laptop for 100,000 machines, making the program possible. Essentially, instead of schools getting that $275 per year, per pupil, for targeted-tech funds, students will get a laptop and all the services.

The Department of Labor would work with the Department of Education to preload the Apples with software that would enable the computers to access Maine’s online CareerCenter offerings. So parents affected by the recession could use the laptops to help their situation.