Can Maine gather enough interested district superintendants to make this a state-wide program at high school level?
Laptop expansion hinges on superintendents' level of interest By David Sharp, Associated Press Writer | June 11, 2004
PORTLAND, Maine -- Apple Computer Inc. is seeking to determine the minimum level of participation needed to make it possible to rent laptops to school districts seeking to expand the program into high schools. Education Commissioner Susan Gendron said Friday that she hopes to gauge support from superintendents at a meeting later this month.
Already, a dozen school districts are willing to enter into their own lease-purchase agreements with Apple, but they could save money if there is enough critical mass for a state-sponsored rental plan, Gendron said. Friday's announcement gives hope to educators and students who hope that the state will somehow find a way to expand the first-in-the-nation program that put computers on the laps of seventh- and eighth-graders.
The Baldacci administration has been scrambling after the legislative session ended without action on laptops. "This governor, on many issues, has shown that he doesn't like to take 'no' for an answer. On this issue, I'm glad he persisted," said Yellow Light Breen, a laptop supporter and former Education Department spokesman.
Maine's four-year program provided Apple iBook computers to more than 30,000 seventh- and eighth-graders in all 241 public middle schools across the state in two phases in 2002 and 2003. The program, which was originally envisioned by former Gov. Angus King as providing laptops from the seventh to 12th grades, has received high marks from teachers, students and parents.
The proposed four-year rental program that the state is pursuing would give high schools the same low rate negotiated for middle schools: $300 per laptop each year, with training and other perks included. School districts that proceed on their own will pay $365 per laptop under a four-year lease-purchase agreement. That plan doesn't include some of the other perks, but school districts would own the computers at the end.
State Rep. Glenn Cummings, co-chair of Education and Cultural Affairs Committee and a laptop supporter, said he's gratified a variety of school districts are moving forward -- not just the wealthy, coastal districts.
"I'm pleased that there are some rural towns moving forward with it. My concern is that there becomes an income inequality issue," said Cummings, D-Portland.
Gendron said she hopes to have more details to provide to the superintendents when she meets with them on June 22.