“So, are you the principal here?”
“How many kids?”
“About 1,300 K-12.”
“Wow. That’s a mix.”
“So how much technology do you have?”
“Quite a bit actually, but it’s been difficult of late.”
“Oh? How’s that?”
“Well, we’ve been a 1-1 school for seven years, but we haven’t been able to buy any laptops for the last three.”
“Wow. That must be a pretty major issue, huh?”
“Well, our budgets have been cut, and the support has been difficult.”
“Anything bright on the horizon?”
“Well, we did just get a $100,000 from our local council for technology.”
“Well, that’s great. That ought to get you a couple of hundred laptops.”
“What do you mean?”
“It’ll buy us about 50.”
“Fifty! Why only 50?”
“The bidding specs for the city.”
“The cheapest laptop we can buy is around $2,000.”
“Two- thousand? Wow.”
“You know you can get a laptop for like, $300-$400 these days, right.”
“I know.” She sighs.
Awkward silence. Bell rings.
“Well, good luck with that.”
She walks down the hall trailing a group of kids.
Technorati Tags: schools, technology, education
James O'Hagan says
WHERE OH WHERE IS THIS SCHOOL?! I run a 1:1 here. Do their state laws require them to bid through certain vendors? That’s crazy.
I used to work at a very large school system outside of DC. Similar issue. We were only allowed to purchase from the Bid list and often the prices were greatly inflated – you could often walk into bestbuy and purchase two of whatever cost one on the bid list. The only thing extra that the bid list got you was the full blown dell service support system but still… I always wondered if someone somewhere was getting a kick back!
Just my two cents – Someone needs to help these large school systems get with the times!
Bea Cantor says
Why are the taxpayers in the district letting this happen?
Hmmm…Actually, I know it happens in my own kids’ district. What should I do about it, as a parent and as an educator? This is not a rhetorical question, by the way.
I have seen this happen in a couple of districts around me. That is why our taxes are so high and why taxpayers resent giving schools more money.
Deb Kitchener says
Perhaps the school district is purchasing more than a laptop. There are costs for hardware, software technicians also good technology management always includes around 5% of cost for training of staff. The hidden costs just might be demonstrated up front.
Chris Lehmann says
Deb is right. There’s usually deals made about software, maintenance, etc… but the frustrating part is that we *have* to use them. It’s the exclusivity that drives me nuts. If we don’t want the Microsoft, Inspiration, etc… deals that are included, it doesn’t matter. That’s what makes me crazy.
Eric Grant says
Is it naive of me to suggest (Deb, Chris, etc) that buyers just conveniently ignore those rules and just purchase what they really need as long as they stick to the spirit of the grant / budgeted item / etc.?
Would someone really come blazing in to read the riot act?
Chris Lehmann says
In Philly, you can’t do it. Period. The PO gets rejected.
And yes, someone would come in and read the riot act. There are *very* strict rules around purchasing and procurement in most districts.
Jodie Barrett says
This rings true for our board also. We have a choice of one… one laptop highly inflated (2000+) usually way behind in capability. Purchasing the unit is the easy part. Getting the techs for support, software and access needed…. throughly frustrating. Oh, did I mention that there are no extra funds so every cent we scrape up from the budget. However administrators (of which I will quietly profess to being) who believe in the necessity will make the sacrifices. It is those who do not share this vision who limit the opportunities of the school.
That’s sad that the money can’t be spent wisely. It reminds me of a beautiful school where I worked that had the cheapest equipment possible. I don’t mean cheap as in money, but cheap as in quality. I was just a lowly teacher but wondered if they had paid top dollar and received substandard products.
Deb Kitchener says
But think about it….if you have these service contracts you are also buying time that you save. Instead of having to pack up machines yourself and take them in for repair (and they do break, often!) You make a call and someone comes to you. Sounds luxurious but is necessary in a busy, heavily used school lab!
Richard Byrne says
I wish I could have 1:1 with 3 year old computers. My district has 1:35 with 5-6 year old computers. That said, we’re starting to take bids for 1:1 laptops and for $2,000 we could easily get 4 laptops.
The service package argument for defending inflated prices is somewhat valid. The district may be buying product support, but in my experience the product support offered in those packages isn’t anything that even a mediocre in-house IT person can’t address.
Not buying a product support package and investing in an in-house IT person is a savings in the long run. That IT person will outlast the new computers and be free to work on any system, not just those of a certain manufacturer.
John Rundag says
Ridiculous! I just bought an Asus eeePC from CDWG for $350. I am going to take it with me to all of our buildings and have the teachers and students evaluate it.
Scott Mooney says
Those specs are defined, redefined and changed all the time. There is no reason why that city/district can’t change those “rules” at any time. Well, maybe they signed a contract of some kind but if that is the case then the person who approved that should be removed immediately. And for the principal to be so accepting of this is criminal. She is responsible for the academics as well as purchasing for her school, whether she has resigned herself to being powerless or not. If she knows that there is a better way to do something then she shouldn’t stop until she gets it. From what I’ve seen good admins fight for what is right, regardless of whether it is popular or not.
Like Tobias said, just my two cents…
Jared Bennett says
We have an exclusive with Lenovo (IBM) that demands we purchase their (overpriced) equipment. To compound the issue, the board’s IT dept. (not the principal, the entire school board: elementary and secondary) claim that bringing in any system without the “board-created image” loaded on it (my MAC for instance) and plugging it into the ethernet drop in the classroom could create a security breach in their network, so teachers are dissuaded from bringing their own laptops to work. (It’s like dying of thirst, having water flowing out of the wall, and being told you cannot drink without the approved cup).
We have a 10:1 student to computer ratio going on in the school, the brunt of which are in a lab each class visits for about 40 minutes a week.
…but until the tech police come sweeping into my room to unplug the bank of ubuntu desktops fueling my guerrilla teaching practice, I’ll keep teaching with technology by whatever means necessary. (Ontario, Canada)
That is crazy!! I heard someone say the other day (regarding vending machines in schools being only Pepsi, but it applies here as well) “For being in a capitalistic society that appreciates competition and the free market so much, we sure do love monopolies!” It is not a monopoly in the truest sense, but it is a great point.
We got an E2T2 grant. Our laptops cost $1600 a piece. I think we could have had more flexibility and I was not part of that decision since I had not been hired. We could have done so much better. You captured what is happening in districts across this country.
Carolyn Foote says
This is definitely an area in government/schools in need of reform.
Bidding rules actually cause schools to NOT use taxpayer money wisely because we are forced to purchase from vendors that may be more expensive, or have limited wares, etc.
The rules are restrictive, cumbersome, and time-wasting.
While it is similar to the notion that the military pays millions of dollars for a wrench, in schools, it is particularly heart-wrenching, when you know that a school in so much need could get so much more for their dollar to really help their students.
You can thank those idiots in Roslyn NY for stealing from their district. Now, school systems across NY (and beyond) have to deal with newly empowered bean counters making rules that fly against whats in the best interest of students.
Forget just big ticket items, it also goes for smaller less expensive items as well. We recently had to buy wood for one of my shop classes. Instead of spending $3 for a 2×4 at a local large Home Center, we had to pay almost $7 from the company that filled out the damned forms to win the bid. Any one have an idea how many 2×4’s a wood shop goes through in a year?
My brother-in-law (a major business consultant) has shared similar tales with me from a variety of sectors. Too bad but some times rules are put in place that made sense at a time but take too long to change.
With Google Docs etc. it seems a Internet connection is about all we need now.
Case of the Mondays says
I’m an educational software vendor, and have filled out many an RFP (Request For Proposal) from many a state/district/whatever. These things are so ridiculously written and require so much hoop-jumping that it doesn’t surprise me in the least that schools end up having to pay 3-10 times as much as they should for basic things. If potential vendors are required to submit notarized statements that none of the parts they use are sourced from Cuba (that’s a real example, BTW) just to be considered, how many vendors do you think are going to submit bids? And none of those vendors will be the lowest-price options, because the big retailers with the lowest prices don’t have people sitting around who have the time to fill out all these BS RFPs.
I know educators are used to thinking of vendors as the enemy, but from this end of things it feels like the system is out to make things as difficult as possible for teachers, students, *and* for the people trying to sell you tools you can use at reasonable prices.
Ronnie Smith says
WOW. I do not know what to say other than WOW!
I am the Director of Technology for 6-12 grade charter school in Memphis at I got Lenovo X60 tablets with 1gb of ram and Core 2 Duo’s w/3 on site accidental protection for much, much less that $2k. I hate to hear of a school trying to keep a program up and loosing the battle. I bet that school system did not cut the budget to buy the same old textbooks….