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Romney proposes giving laptops to most students

Plan would affect 500,000 in state

Governor Mitt Romney yesterday proposed taking advantage of newly developed $100 laptops and giving one to every student in public middle and high schools.

As part of an overall package of education initiatives, Romney called for spending $54 million for laptops to make the Internet accessible to all students. In all, 500,000 students would receive laptops if the Legislature approves the governor's plan.

Romney, during a news conference, highlighted the low-price laptops, which were developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab. Giving laptops to students would be phased-in over three years, beginning with students in sixth grade, he said.

Some states, including Maine, as well as large school systems, have given free laptops to students only to later scale back because of the costs of maintaining the program.

Massachusetts Teachers Association president Catherine A. Boudreau said the money would be better spent on basics such as smaller class sizes and better textbooks.

She said it doesn't make sense to give the laptops to all middle and high school students, whether they need them or not.

In the Boston public schools, TechBoston Academy, a small high school, began issuing laptops to its students when it opened in 2002. Grants helped pay for the computers. Two new Boston public high schools plan to follow suit.

Romney said his education package would cost roughly $600 million over the next five years.

Along with laptops for middle and high school students, Romney proposed merit pay for teachers; training for parents; an effort to turnaround underperforming schools; and math and science college-level courses for high school students.

Staff writer Tracy Jan contributed to this report. Material from the Associated Press and the State House News Service was used in this report.

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