The Pasco School Board's push for austerity doesn't extend to its own gizmos. As reported by Times staff writer Jeffrey Solochek, the Pasco School Board plans to dump its personal computers in favor of new $499 iPads and then pass on the so-called outdated MacBook laptops with 17-inch screens to classrooms. How benevolent.
The spending — though minor compared with the overall budget — illustrates a disconnect between the policymakers and the people they are elected to serve. Consider: Pasco receives $540 less per pupil from the state of Florida this budget year than it did in 2007 and the School Board has been told to anticipate starting the coming budget year with a $46.7 million deficit. Some schools do not meet the goal of one computer station per three students. Some high schools are not yet prepared to administer the state's computerized standardized tests in the spring, though the district says they anticipate they will be.
Fourteen months ago, a prior board approved a five-year capital spending plan that members acknowledged did not include enough cash to expedite the pace of technological upgrades needed for older schools. While more than a million dollars worth of federal Race to the Top money helped offset that shortfall, individual schools still must suffice with outdated equipment. Meanwhile, families collect soup labels and cereal box tops, sell cookie dough or participate in any number of fund-raisers to boost the technology and classroom supply budgets at their neighborhood schools.
Yet, this board still finds money available for their own technological toys? It's an insult to teachers who must use obsolete equipment, to the students and parents scraping extras out of their own household budgets for the schools' benefit and to the business community that generously donates to schools as well.
If Pasco School Board members need iPads to do their jobs properly, let them use the same resources as the rest of the school community. Like teachers do with classroom supplies, board members can pay for the new technology out of their own pockets and take a write-off on their income taxes.
Better yet, they can start selling cookie dough.