Latest iPad expense might be robbing Peter to pay Paul

ACHTUNG: This is not a “fair and balanced” story. It is an editorial by the editor.

Words of wisdom fRich and poorrom two different philosophies can demonstrate the difficulty in assessing the Wayland Board of Education’s 5-2 vote Monday night to borrow $640,000 at 2.5% interest to fund the expanded iPad computer tablet program.

In support would be the reminder from Charles Darwin that it isn’t the smartest nor the strongest who will survive throughout history, rather it will be those who are able and willing to adapt to changing conditions.

Indeed, we as modern Americans would be foolish to turn our backs on the valuable tools provided by technology. Think of a person who still uses a typewriter rather than a computer. Think of a person who drives a horse and buggy rather than a car.

On the other hand, we must be mindful of the words from William Shakespeare, who warned, “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.”

It is very difficult to avoid having to buy things on credit these days, but this is a huge part of what keeps us as a people horribly in hock and perhaps too close to being one catastrophe away from bankruptcy.

Ever since Teresa Fulk took over as technology director for Wayland Union schools, the department has made massive strides forward after too many years of treading water. Yet, the question must be asked — at what cost? This latest expenditure will cover 1,350 students and 130 staff members.

We have been told often over the past three years that the local school district must make budget cuts because the fund balance has dropped to just 7.35 percent of the total budget. Yet at the same time we have watched the school board spend $3 million on a new science wing addition and big borrowed bucks twice to pay for a bold iPad program.

There are those who will explain that the money doesn’t come out of the general fund budget, it’s coming from Gun Lake Casino revenue. However, it can be argued that all dollars allocated toward a specific program covered by casino funding could be allocated elsewhere.

Though I have tremendous respect for the effort to make our children computer literate in a fast-changing society, I also have grave fears we are losing a great deal of educational richness, particularly in the lower elementaries, when we allow classroom and playground aides to be reduced and to live in poverty because we’re not willing to allow “those people” to obtain health care benefits so many other employees in the district enjoy. We’re being penny wise and pound foolish.

I also fear the school district’s class war on the most vulnerable workers has consequences for children at risk for bullying on the playground and being left behind in academics because they lack skills that adult helpers can provide.

In a sense, the Wayland Union school district is robbing Peter, the lowest paid worker, to pay Paul, technology. I only wish we could find a way to serve both.

But we won’t as long as we continue to cop an attitude that somehow classroom and playground aides and food service workers are bottom feeders. They’re all part of the village it takes to raise children.

1 Comment

  • I have an idea, let’s teach the kids how to build a laptop computer. Start in 8th grade. Teach them how the parts work and what the parts do. Show them how to put it together.
    Now they have a computer they can use all thru high school. If it stops working, they can fix it themselves. This way the school actually teach what the kids want and need.
    One time cost (the family can pay for repairs).
    We can’t keep spending money we don’t have. Just a thought.

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