Rell budget gives funds for laptops in schools

Connecticut high school classrooms may soon be getting a boost into the 21st century, courtesy of the state government.

The two-year budget proposal announced by Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell Wednesday includes around $15.5 million for a program to put laptop computers in ninth and 10th grade English classes in public schools. Although it is still too early to tell how the funds will be apportioned, officials from Rell’s office and New Haven Public Schools said they felt the initiative was a bold step towards preparing Connecticut students for an increasingly technological world.

Adam Liegeot ’94, a spokesman for Rell, said the decision to put the laptops in high school English classrooms reflected the governor’s commitment to both technological and humanities-based education.

“Gov. Rell believes fervently in the importance of educating our students and in the use of 21st century technology,” Liegeot said. “At the same time, Gov. Rell believes we need to do a better job of teaching writing skills to our students.”

Rich Harris, another spokesman for Rell, emphasized the importance of the technological skills the program will help develop.

“Computers are as essential as pens and pencils in everyday work,” Harris said.

According to the governor’s Monday press release, 300 classrooms would receive laptops in time for the 2005-2006 school year, while the rest would be outfitted by fall 2006. The laptops would remain in the schools for use during class, and not be issued directly to students.

NHPS Director of Communications Catherine Sullivan DeCarlo said the laptops would help prepare students for upcoming online versions of standardized tests, such as the Connecticut Academic Performance Test, which all of the state’s public school students are required to take in the spring of their 10th grade year.

“It’s our understanding that eventually the CAPT test will be put online, so certainly having laptops will be helpful in having kids learn to write and edit and do all those functions online,” DeCarlo said.

According to Liegeot, part of Rell’s $15.5 million would go towards helping teachers integrate the new hardware with their lesson plans.

“One thing about the $15.5 million is that in addition to the hardware costs for the laptops, that money also includes training funds for teachers, and the money will also be put towards curriculum development to help with using the laptops in an everyday classroom setting,” he said.

Although hopes are high for the new program, some, such as Wilbur Cross junior Heddy Benatar, feel that providing laptops for some schools could be putting the cart before the horse.

“The kids can’t read,” Benatar said. “Can they type? … It’s really important to keep up with what’s going on … but I really think that it would be suicide to give these to inner city kids, because seriously, they work on literacy at Cross, and that’s high school.”

Despite Benatar’s doubts as to how useful the laptops will be in her own school, she said she feels Connecticut as a whole would “really benefit” from Rell’s program.

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