Maine iBook Purchase Threatened With State Budget Shortfall

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Wired.com is reporting that Maineis iBook contract with Apple is being threatened by a statewide budget shortfall. Announced in late 2001, the state of Maine signed the contract into law in March of this year. The program is intended to put laptops in the hands of every 7th and 8th grade student throughout the state, and has been championed by Maine governor Angus King.

According to the Wired.com article, the stateis portion of the funding for the program was to be handled through a US$25 million endowment. The contract itself is worth US$37.2 million over four years, with the difference in the endowment and the total being made up of funding from other sources. The problem being encountered is a US$180 million budget shortfall for Maine, and some of the stateis politicians are eyeing the endowment as one possible source for cuts. From the article:

"Now what Iim hearing from a number of legislators -- who were supportive of the laptop program -- is that they are withdrawing their support from keeping the endowment," said Maine Senate President Richard Bennett (R-Norway) Bennett agreed that a laptop can be a "very powerful tool for learning. "My concerns over the plan are mainly fiscal," he said.

Bennett said that an alternative to the endowment is implementing a "pay-as-you-go" system for the laptop program.

Governor King is fighting back for his program by citing success stories in small rural school districts. Such school districts often donit have the funding to finance their own computer initiatives. From the article:

King recently visited Pembrooke Elementary –- the most rural of the demonstration schools, located in an economically depressed area -- and saw results of the laptop implementation. "The success is just unbelievable," King said.

King said the program has all the benefits that laptop proponents predicted: Students are becoming more comfortable with technology and have access to tools they need to learn. And pilot schools are having fewer problems with attendance and discipline, which is an unexpected benefit.

There is a lot more information in this article that we did not quote, including many comments from local educators touting the benefits of the program so far. We recommend it as a good read.

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