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PD Editorial: Ensuring wise investments for schools

  • Tom Torlakson, the state superintendent of public instruction, was in Santa Rosa last week where he pitched a $9 billion school bond for the 2014 ballot. (Associated Press)

There’s no denying that technology is playing a growing role in education.

It’s also true that many schools around the state aren’t adequately wired for high-tech learning, including the computer-based testing systems that accompany the new Common Core curriculum.

But let’s not forget the basics.

Just as one plus one doesn’t equal three, a mismatch between supply and demand doesn’t justify a headlong rush to start retrofitting schools for a future that’s still more vision than blueprint.

Tom Torlakson, the state superintendent of public instruction, was in Santa Rosa last week where he pitched a $9 billion bond measure to build up the technology infrastructure at K-12 campuses in California.

“There are big issues with bandwidth, Internet connecting devices,” Torlakson told Staff Writer Kerry Benefield.

Yes, the need is genuine. And so is the necessity to invest wisely, to understand what is being purchased and why. Ask school officials in Los Angeles.

The nation’s second-largest school district decided to equip about 650,000 students and teachers with iPads at a cost of about $1 billion for the tablet-style computers and associated expenses, including training and Internet upgrades at L.A. schools.

Unanticipated problems emerged almost as soon as the devices were distributed. District officials hadn’t considered who would be responsible for lost, stolen or damaged tablets.

They didn’t think about the keyboards that will be required for students to take standardized tests on the devices.

School officials also were caught off guard by how quickly students hacked through security settings that were supposed to keep them from using the iPads for video games and social media, not to mention surfing the Internet’s many inappropriate-for-school offerings.

The latest revelation was another unexpected cost increase. It seems no one accounted for sales taxes or the mandatory recycling fees for electronics, which could drive the per-unit cost up almost $100. Multiply that by 650,000 and you don’t need to be a math teacher to recognize that it’s more than a rounding error.

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