Letter: Scarborough rep opposes school computer plan

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The Scarborough School Board is proposing that taxpayers provide laptop computers to all high school students. Five years ago a similar proposal failed.

As the wife of an IT specialist and mother of a computer engineer, I agree classroom technology has its place. But I oppose this million-dollar initiative because:

1 — The Town Charter requires, to my knowledge, that all projects totaling more than $400,000 must be voter-approved.

2 — The capital improvement budget is reserved for projects that prolong the life of the property, such as installing new windows. Laptops quickly become obsolete and do not fit this definition.

3 — The school budget’s baseline will be permanently increased to replace and repair the computers, monitor activity, and provide tech support. Other costs, including insurance, may crowd out other necessary classroom items. Start-up costs and ongoing expenses are significant.

4 — A survey should be conducted of those directly affected, including teachers, students, parents and taxpayers, regarding this long-term financial commitment.

6 — Is one new position – a technology integrator – realistic, with 1,000 high school students and more than 70 teachers?

7 — If future funding runs short, will the town borrow money to purchase replacements?

8 — Some schools in other states have discontinued their programs due to cost overruns and difficulties with monitoring inappropriate usage.

9 — Maturing teenagers benefit from handling the responsibility of owning their own equipment.

10 — Most students already own a laptop; many prefer Apple products.

11 — Textbooks have many benefits; they are user-friendly and “greener” to produce and use.

For students of limited means, I suggest offering a rent-to-own program, increased access to computers at the high school computer lab, and/or loaners through the school library.

Rep. Heather Sirocki