Monday, January 09, 2006

Komputer Kids

Illinois’ Lt. Governor wants to give your kid a computer.
Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn wants the state to buy 170,000 laptops, enough to equip every seventh-grader in Illinois.

Under his proposal, called I-Connect, students would keep their laptops through 12th grade. The estimated annual cost of Quinn’s plan is $50 million.

The initiative will help students stay competitive, said Ted Gibbs, a policy adviser to Quinn.


It’s not clear how the state would pay for Quinn’s $50 million program. A draft of Quinn’s plan does not address any source of revenue. Gibbs said parents would bear no cost under Quinn’s plan.

Gibbs also said the plan could entail rolling back commissions that retailers get for collecting sales taxes. Under current law, retailers keep 1.75 percent of sales tax receipts to cover their administrative costs. Quinn wants to cut retailers’ share of tax revenue to 1 percent — thereby generating more money for the state.

Illinois lawmakers are expected to consider Quinn’s proposal during their spring session, which begins Wed­nesday.
The story goes on to identify what I see as the biggest problem with this plan:
Marc Snir, head of the computer science department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said a six-year life span of a laptop is pushing the limits of technology.

“The obvious problem is wear and tear on the computer. Students do not always manage their backpacks with the utmost attention,” Snir said, adding that laptops are “not built to survive. Laptops are not built to survive being dropped on the concrete. Drop a laptop on a hard surface and it’s gone.”
Ummm, yeah, a laptop used regularly by a responsible adult is not likely to last six years. In the hands of kids, well, forget it.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to like about this idea but I think we must be prepared for some stiff maintenance costs. Laptops are going to have to be fixed or replaced fairly frequently. Can you imagine a student being given , say, a book in seventh grade and expecting it to still be in decent shape by the time that kid graduates high school? No, that book is going to be beat to hell. Now, imagine a laptop, which is infanitly more delicate, holding up over that period of time.

Anyway, Quinn has the right idea but I would be prepared for a higher long-term price tag.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

They do make a really rugged, sturdy laptop that is intended for "field" use. They might be worth considering although I imagine the cost is quite a bit heftier than your average laptop. However, the state would already know about this because they purchased a load full of them to use to assist with hurricane Katrina assistance the provided in Louisiana. Of course, as I understand it, we, the state of Illinois, charged the state of Louisiana for the computers.