Buyer (or renter) beware: the fine print behind the laptop deal

When Gov. Butch Otter and state superintendent Tom Luna announced the state’s Students Come First laptop deal, they wanted you to take away this one number: $292.77.

That was the per-unit cost announced last week — and, at first blush, it sounds like the state got a bargain.

But the fine print tells another story. The details were unearthed Tuesday by the Spokane Spokesman-Review’s Betsy Russell, who obtained a copy of the state’s contract with Hewlett-Packard under the state’s public records act.

First, you need to keep in mind that this is an annual per-unit cost. The computers for high school students and teachers will be replaced on a four-year cycle, pushing the four-year per unit cost to $1,171.08.

Second, this is a lease agreement, not a purchase. At the end of the four years, the laptops revert back to H-P. While H-P is required under warranty to replace defective equipment, the state is on the hook to replace computers that are lost, damaged or stolen.

The normally measured Randy Stapilus — a Northwest political blogger and former Idaho Statesman editor — promptly dubbed this the “yagottabekiddin clause.”

“Tens of thousands of computers. Liability: Seemingly unlimited. Unbelievable.”

Actually, I can believe it. This seems to me like a boilerplate rental relationship. With the ability to walk away from 4-year-old laptops comes certain liabilities. More surprising, and more significant to taxpayers, is the rising pricetag.
In 2011, Luna’s office estimated this program would cost $70.8 million over the first five years — including the devices and wireless. The five-year costs now, again — for laptops and wireless — will approach $82.9 million.

But even that figure doesn’t tell the whole story. The state is gradually rolling out this program, furnishing laptops to teachers first, and then incrementally to the students, so the contract won’t fully kick in until year four. In years six through eight, when the state is taking delivery of more than 271,000 laptops, the contract will cost the state a total of $79.4 million.

This deal will cost Idaho taxpayers at least $167.7 million over eight years — and, as Bill Burns of the state Department of Administration’s purchasing division told the Associated Press last week, H-P came in as the low bidder.

But at the tail end of a costly, rancorous campaign, the details are just coming into focus.

Buyer (or renter) beware.

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No surprises here, Luna lied (or didn't have his facts straight)

On the plus side, we consumers should be able to pick up cheap laptops at the used computer store in a few years as the old units glut the market.

To clarify, I am not sure

To clarify, I am not sure why this is a surprise. Since 2011, we have always said we would lease these devices through a managed service. We have always said we would model the program after the state of Maine's program in which they lease devices through a managed service. The service includes a device as well as all the maintenance, security, tech support, software, wireless in high schools and professional development for teachers and staff. That is all included in the $292.77 per student per year cost of the contract.

except for the part

where students were told they might be able to own them after the four years was up, and where's the line going to be drawn between "covered maintenance" and "damage"? And who's going to pay for the damaged units? The state? or will that be yet another can kicked down the road to the local school districts, claiming it's "local control"?

Not to mention the electronic textbooks that are not included in this bid that the local school districts will now somehow have to buy. Whether they're the $4-$6 supporters claim or the $76-for-five-years-or-five-units figure I've heard cited by teachers, it's still going to be a lot of money.

'I'm not sure why this is a surprise, this is what we've said all along' is the same kind of we've-always-been-at-war-with-Eastasia cr*p we've been getting from this department for the past two years.

I could fill a page with the ways in which Idaho is *not* following Maine's model, so don't give me 'We have always said we'd model it after Maine.'

And, just out of curiosity, how much of this money *will* be devoted to professional development? And how does it compare to the figure the Technology Task Force was told would be required to adequately train teachers?


Really, IdahoStateDeptEd? Do you have links to Sec. Luna's testimony when the laws were being considered saying it would be a lease? Contemporaneous news reports, maybe? We'd all LOVE to see this evidence...

Sure. In addition to the

Sure. In addition to the discussions during the 2011 legislative session, the Technology Task Force, which met for six months in 2011, discussed the fact that this would be a lease with the option for districts to buy the devices at the end of the lease. The lease was also clearly written in the RFI that was made public in September 2011. All of this is available in the Task Force’s final report online at:

So have you ever...

,,,seen what a four-year-old textbook looks like?

Actually, I have and WE treated them well for more years.

Maybe you should set a good example and make sure the properties your taxes paid for actually last.


Celebrating five years and one screen ID >|<

The surprise is the bill -

The surprise is the bill - how much Idaho taxpayers are being fleeced for all of this.

Pendleton, you aptly display

Pendleton, you aptly display its not the students which are your concern nor the quality of education in Idaho. Its your pocket book. Take a tour of schools throughout our state, not just the valley. Quality education should be afforded all students in Idaho.

My vote is YES, YES, AND YES.

I would happily pay more in

I would happily pay more in taxes for education. But I would like to see this money go to hiring more teachers so cla$$ sizes decrease. Cla$$ sizes increase under the Luna laws. I would like to see it go toward increasing teacher salaries - the countires in the world with the best education results, like Finland, pay teachers much more than we do. And I would like more money spent on technology in a targeted manner, sending technology to the districts that do not currently have it rather than to everyone regardless of need.

fins up

"Decades ago, when the Finnish school system was badly in need of reform, the goal of the program that Finland instituted, resulting in so much success today, was never excellence. It was equity."

Teachers in Finland are required to get a Master's Degree. Most people with a Master's Degree get paid more.

Finland has 100% free schools- even colleges.

And their taxes are way higher.

But imagine, the goal is NOT to be the best or even the smartest.
How well do you think that would go over with the parents in Eagle, Idaho?

Their goal is for everyone to be the same... sound like any political systems you are aware of?

Re fins up, not totally accurate

College in Finland is free, but only students who have demonstrated a potential for academic excellence are admitted to their universities. The weeding out process begins around 8th or 9th grade when all students have to take a comprehensive written exam (no multiple choice tests!)that will determine which type of high school they can attend - college prep or a vocational/technical school. Education is only mandatory for children ages 7-14, but most Finnish children do earn a high school diploma, and most can speak three languages. There is another written exam for college entrance. There is no such thing as an undergraduate degree in education. All would-be teachers must demonstrate mastery of a subject matter before they can apply to study for a masters in education, and only a small percentage will be accepted.

As you can see, you do need to be among the best and brightest to become a teacher in Finland. Because the competition for teaching positions is very stiff, college students are encouraged to focus on academic excellence and take as long as they need to complete their degree programs. The typical 1st year teacher is between the ages of 28 and 30. For all this effort, teacher salaries in Finland are comparable to those in the U.S.

My sources for the above information are too many for me to remember them all - some were American sources such as the Wall Street Journal, The New Republic, Washington Post, and education journals, while a few were Finnish government sources and statistics provided by the UN. I even found one Finnish newspaper article in which some teachers were complaining about their low wages and having to work two jobs to pay for basic living expenses. Hmm.

I found much to admire about the Finnish education system which was rebuilt from scratch starting around 1970, but except for requiring our teachers to be a lot smarter, I think it would be impossible to replicate their system in America. Their population is only 5 million and consists of a people who share a common race, common religion, etc. etc. And, yes, their taxes are very high to pay for all those so-called freebies.


You make it sound terrible.
Why would anyone use them as an example?!

So what is not "totally accurate" of what I wrote?

Reply to pimp's yuck

Well, you said the goal was NOT to be the best or smartest, and I have not found that to be the case in anything I have read about Finland's school system. You also said the goal was for everybody to be the same, but I would have to ask the same in what way? I'm assuming you based these assumptions on the Atlantic article, and that it was misleadingly inaccurate.

At the elementary level, I think there is goal to have all children succeed. Finland expects all 7 years olds to know how to read and write by the end of first grade, and the children cannot move up until they have acquired those skills. They do not graduate functional illiterates like we do, but the fact they have a tracking system to separate the college bound from the other students is a recognition that all children are not the same, that they have different abilities, different motivations, etc. Within the larger society, there does appear to be a lot of sameness - about 90% white, 80% Lutheran, they all speak the same language - which suggests to me there is less political friction if everyone looks alike and mostly thinks alike. I'm sure daily life in Finland is not all peaches and cream, that if you were to read their newspapers and magazines on a regular basis, you could poke some holes in their "cool" school system and socialist-style government. I don't want to move there.

Setting aside Finland, I have also examined the education systems in other countries such as Germany, Japan, and S. Korea. High school is not free in Japan, and therefore not mandatory. All these countries have tracking systems and do not waste money trying to educate children who do not want to be in school in the first place. I have mixed emotions about this. On the positive side, this puts a lot of pressure on parents to encourage their children to excel as their best if not only hope of going to college. Parents seem to be more attuned to their children's performance and blame themselves and their children for academic failure. But there are a good many negatives that rub against American values.
The path to upward mobility appears very narrow to me.

The important thing to remember, IMO, is when you see those international test scores, realize these countries are only testing the cream of the crop, whereas we test every student. When American teachers complain they don't get the respect shown to teachers in other countries, it is because those countries don't allow the bottom third of college graduates to become teachers. When Pendleton claims teachers in other countries are better paid, that is generally not true, and where it is true, what good is it to be paid more if the government confiscates 50% or more of your pay check?

Imagine how much money our schools could save and direct toward teacher salaries if we did not have school lunch programs, athletic fields, gymnasiums, school buses, parking lots, counselors and social workers; and what if 45-50 students per class was the norm for a high school teacher as it is in some of these countries (though not in Finland which has a small and stable population)????

Age seven? I was there at age three!


Celebrating five years and one screen ID >|<

And then you started school,

And then you started school, and your 1st grade teacher said to you, "Foreignoregonian! Stop turning the page!" By the time you were seven you were exceptional at responding to bells and voice commands to line up.

well, not all maintenance

just on the warranty covered components, software, and not on any "optional" parts the districts might have installed, or software. Of the optional equipment my personal favorite is the backpack @ $40 ea.