High School Computer fees | Globe Editorial

$$ isn’t one of the three Rs

June 14, 2010

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BEVERLY’S NEW high school, set to open in November, should be the envy of its counterparts in other towns. With the school’s emphasis on technology, students will be able to work together more easily, including through video conferencing, and learn how to use advanced computer programs.

Unfortunately, Beverly is also obliging parents to pay extra for this tech-utopia — a requirement that violates the spirit of public education. Not only must every student have a laptop computer, but it must be a specific, expensive type: a MacBook with a price tag of $900. And since the school system couldn’t find a donor to cover the cost, students and their families will be on the hook.

Those who participate in the reduced-cost or free lunch program will have access to reduced-cost or free machines, according to Superintendent James Hayes Jr. Yet for plenty of families whose incomes fall above this line, $900 is still an onerous amount. And families who have already invested in computers will have to buy another one to satisfy the school’s edict.

The whole point of public education is that it provides free schooling at public expense. It’s one thing for schools to charge modest fees for voluntary extracurricular activities that require additional equipment. But that’s not what Beverly is doing. Instead, it is effectively levying a $900 tax on its high school students simply for the privilege of attending. Beverly should find a private funder or adopt a more flexible stance on the computers its students use. Otherwise, it should cover the cost of the computers from its own funds.

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