Cost For iPads For Every Florida Student? $441 Million

October 10, 2012

The State Board of Education has put a price tag on the state’s share of a transition to digital learning materials for public school students across Florida — $441 million — while signaling that it also supports school districts having more freedom to select their textbooks.

The digital learning figure is part of the State Department of Education’s $15.2 billion budget request to the Legislature, which would mark a 4.4 percent increase in the department’s spending plan above the current fiscal year. The board approved the request Tuesday.

Lawmakers are expected to potentially have a $71.3 million surplus to work with for the budget year that begins July 1, but even some budget-writers are cautious of that figure.

Lawmakers have helped drive the state toward more reliance on digital learning materials, passing a bill two years ago requiring schools to adopt digital-only textbooks by the 2015-16 school year and spend at least half their textbook budget on electronic materials.

The budget proposal from the department focuses more on the nuts-and-bolts approach to making that happen: Setting up schools with the capability to make iPads and Kindles useful and making sure that students actually have the devices.

The plan would devote almost $239 million to equipping schools with wireless Internet capabilities, something that 1,616 schools in Florida — almost half the total — currently lack. It would take another $151 million to make sure that every school in the state has access to quality broadband Internet access; 263 schools in Florida have no broadband access at all.

The final $51.7 million would be spent to defray some of the costs of increasing the number of computing devices that students could use — such as iPads, though the department would not require districts to use a certain brand or device. The proposal accounts for leasing each of the devices for three years at $170 a year.

“That’s a great price,” said David Stokes, chief information officer for the State Department of Florida. “Well, how are we going to do that? It’s going to be extremely challenging.”

Stokes said he believed that the state could get the deal by working with vendors.

At the same time, board members are preparing to challenge the textbook adoption process. Districts have to use the state list created by the process for some, but not all, of their textbook purchases. But several board members voiced support for getting rid of textbook adoption, freeing districts to use whatever materials they want for the classroom.

Roberto Martinez, the vice chairman of the board, said the move would allow school districts more flexibility to reach goals set by the state.

“If they want to use textbooks, let them use textbooks,” he said. “If they want to use primary-source material, fine. Digital, fine. Whatever it is. But I think we’re at that stage where we can give them that kind of freedom to accomplish the outcomes that we want.”

A textbook flexibility bill included in the department’s priorities would begin to move the state away from the process. Instead, officials envision a system where the department will offer to vet materials for districts that might not have the resources to review the materials on their own.

Okaloosa County Superintendent Alexis Tibbetts, president of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents, enthusiastically supported the change.

“That’s going to be the answer to prayer,” she said. But board members and supporters of the move warned that any effort to get rid of the policy will likely face a fierce fight in the Legislature by publishers.

Indeed, Jay Diskey, executive director of the school division of the Association of American Publishers, said in an interview that the state should preserve textbook adoption.

“The process in Florida has been a way for Florida to ensure that its school standards appear in the curriculum,” Diskey said.  He also noted that Florida is one of nearly 40 states that are preparing to move toward a more standardized curriculum.

“It’s probably the worst possible time for Florida to walk away from this process,” he said.

By The News Service of Florida


12 Responses to “Cost For iPads For Every Florida Student? $441 Million”

  1. freda m on October 12th, 2012 8:51 pm

    I hope noone looses one of these cause it would be sad for a child to do without books cause their parents dont have the money to pay it of fast enough.

  2. David Huie Green on October 10th, 2012 8:43 pm

    “My wonder is will the iPads need wifi to get into the books because I know there are people that don’t even have computers in their home.”

    You can store your books on them when you ARE near wi fi, such as at school, for example.

    It used to be that a book was around a megabyte of memory, so that would be a thousand books per gigabyte. Lately I’ve noticed even magazines take more than ten megabytes per issue, so let’s assume the text book takes a whopping fifty megabytes.

    That would cut you down to 20 books per gigabyte.
    Assume 16 gig and you can only carry 320 books with you at any one time.

    Let’s see, six classes, generally six books so there should be some to spare. In fact, assume two books per class per year and 13 years gives you plenty of memory for the entire time you are in school along with lots of reference material.

    David for flash memory
    and Moore’s Law

  3. No Excuses on October 10th, 2012 6:07 pm

    The ipads will have problems – just as books do. Books can be stolen and lost and are just as costly to replace as ipads. I would think that the school district would require some sort of repair contract with whomever they purchase the ipads from, or would have some sort of warranty in place to cover damage (accidental – not willful) or loss.

    When textbooks are lost, children are not issued ANY books until the bill is paid. This is really no different and I think the advantages outweighs the disadvantages. Good move!

  4. Mommy of 3 on October 10th, 2012 3:12 pm

    My wonder is will the iPads need wifi to get into the books because I know there are people that don’t even have computers in their home. I know to get into my kids books now we have to have internet. Plus what happens when a child breaks it and their family can not afford to replace it, it should not all be on the rest of us to have to pay ~ therefore that child’s education is in jeopardy. I really think they need to consider all the pros and cons.

  5. fred on October 10th, 2012 1:37 pm

    @PSUEarl1 – your point is well taken! As I wrote that, I thought about a kid tossing the backpack into a corner and cracking the screen. I carry mine in a computer briefcase, and it’s in there pretty tight, but I don’t throw it around. Accidents happen, and I’m sure there will be failures from rough treatment – they can probably outfit them in Otter Cases to protect them. It’s really the loss and theft issue that I think is going to be a problem.

  6. PSU1Earl on October 10th, 2012 1:03 pm

    Fred, I’m assuming you are not a H.S. student… Durable to you and a H.S. student are apples and oranges… IMO….

  7. David Huie Green on October 10th, 2012 11:23 am

    now if they could just make them unbreakable….

  8. Devastating Dave on October 10th, 2012 10:59 am

    I’m disappointed. Big Bird gets more than that.

  9. fred on October 10th, 2012 8:46 am

    I have owned an iPad for several years (since the Gen 1 came out – 2009?), and it still is going strong. I travel with it in my briefcase, so it is pretty durable. I guess my concern with this idea is theft and loss of these popular and pricey devices. I understand the cost of books, but if you have to replace these things over and over because Johnny can’t keep up with it, or it is stolen, then where are we? I would agree that Johnny’s family should have to pay for it, but what if they are indigent? Does Johnny then go the rest of the school year with no books? Adoption of a standard curriculum, quick updating of materials, no hassles with book inventory, less to lug around all over the place, all great reasons to do this. It’s a good idea, but loss and theft are going to be the big issues here – in my opinion.

  10. paper mill man on October 10th, 2012 7:33 am

    think about the paper busniess and how bad this is going to hurt us

  11. PSU1Earl on October 10th, 2012 7:29 am

    Greylady, an ipad is not all that durable either… I’m guessing they don’t last an entire year… I do agree with giving the school boards more freedom on the book selection… Also, my daughter is taking some online courses and they are very good IMHO…

  12. greylady on October 10th, 2012 6:36 am

    I know people will scream about the cost, but consider the fact the average textbook for a high schooler costs over $100 and some are required to be replaced every three years, it may well be cost effective. An Honors Science text book may well run over $300. Paperback college texts now run about $150-$300 each and most colleges and universities have set up special curriculums that are unique to that school, and this precludes buying from cheap on-line sources, so using electronic books in schools may well work out. The average high schooler is required to carry about $500 of books daily, Textbook publishers are going to scream because Florida, Texas, and California have state adopted books,and they make most of their profits off these three states.