Some schools districts in North Carolina plan to use Race to the Top grant funds to purchase iPads for students and faculty. Is this a wise expenditure of funds?
North Carolina will receive $399 million total in Race to the Top (RTTT) funds for four years. Nearly half that amount will stay with state government in the state capital. About half that amount–$199,500,000 will be distributed to local school districts. With 1,410,497 students statewide this amounts to an average of about $35 per student per year for each of four years for a total of about $141 per student. This amount does not sound like much. Most math textbooks cost well over $35. A good math textbook should last 10 or more years and the content does not become outdated in that time.
North Carolina spends nearly $8000 per student per year. That works out to be about $44 per student per day based on a 180 day school year. The state will receive about $0.39 per student per day in RTTT funds with local districts receiving about $0.194 per student per day.
A number of school districts in North Carolina plan to use RTTT funds to purchase iPads for students, teachers, and administrators. These districts may be able to purchase ebooks for the iPads rather than regular student textbooks. In the near term, this looks like it will save money, but will it be a savings over the long term?
If the state or a local school district manages an impossible really good deal on iPads from Apple, let’s say $300 per unit, it will still cost more than twice what a local district receives per student over a four year period of time. Is investing money in iPads a good use of taxpayer dollars?
Have previous investments in educational technology resulted in improved student achievement in the schools and districts involved? How will the iPads be used? What evidence shows iPad use will increase student achievement? Can the same desired results be achieved in another less expensive manner? What is the life expectancy of an iPad? Will the iPads last four years? As the technology becomes dated, what replacement plan will be in place?
If the district expends RTTT funds for iPads, how will they fund the costs of the RTTT reform measures they have committed to implement? How will they pay for professional development to implement the adopted Common Core State Standards.* The unanticipated per student RTTT reform measure costs may very well exceed the amount of per student funds received.
Who was involved in making the decision to purchase iPads with RTTT funds? Would the same decision have been made if local tax dollars were to be used? What informed the decision? Are students in struggling schools telling the decision makers what they need/want?
Parents, taxpayers, and the voting public should be concerned and start questioning local and state education decision makers and legislators.
Here are links to articles related to NC> school districts using RTTT funds for iPads.
*In one state the projected professional development cost for implementing the adopted Common Core State Standards exceeded the total amount of RTTT grant funds sought and not received.