NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 6, 2006

An increasing number of school systems are using computers in the core curriculum of early grades. In fact, one laptop per student is the hottest trend in educational computing. However, a school district in Fullerton, Calif., asked parents to pay $500 a year for three years to help cover costs.

According to observers, this has generated many concerns:

  • It has raised broader questions about how far public schools can go in using costly technology in the face of tight school budgets and limited funding.
  • Some worry that whatever its educational benefits, the program has created an expensive burden for struggling families.
  • Others argue that asking parents to contribute financially violates California's constitutional guarantee of a free public education -- a principle in other state constitutions.

The financial demand on parents has caused some to move their children to other schools within the district to avoid the big computer bill. This brings up the issue of disparity in education, say observers.

Fullerton officials acknowledge that their program is controversial, but they say lower-income families can get help paying for the computers.

Source: William M. Welch, "Schools ask parents to pay up before kids log on: In one California district, some schools require elementary students to have laptops and families to foot $1,500 bill" USA Today, January 3, 2006.


Browse more articles on Education Issues