Maine, one of the only states that guarantees a computer to almost all its public school students, is announcing that the contract that it is currently negotiating for the latest round of equipment upgrades could be used by other states who are interested in launching similar programs in their own schools. This will be the third round of upgrades that Maine has had to negotiate since the laptop-for-students program went into effect 11 years ago.
This time around the state is looking to replace its 35,000 Apple laptops being handed out in middle schools and roughly the same number of units being replaced in high schools. Currently all of Maine's middle schools and half of its high schools participate in the technology program.
With Maine's current four-year lease expiring, the state worked through the National Association of State Procurement Officials to hammer out a contract that can serve as a model for other states. Vermont and Hawaii joined in the discussions and a half-dozen other states have shown varying levels of interest, Mao said.
The fact that Maine has managed to attract a large pool of buyers means the number of vendors interested in taking part and submitting bids has increased by 800%. Vermont, Maine and Hawaii have already laid claims to four of the 16 bids currently outstanding. They will be the standard-length leases – four years – which will cost the states $217 for every iPad, $273 for an MacBook Air and similar prices for several other computer models. Maine's prices are lower because the program is operated statewide.
According to WFMJ, the local NBC affiliate, the prices would be higher for a program operated at a district level.
In Vermont, where about 100 out of 308 of public schools are doing some kind of one-to-one program with computers, the state decided to provide a computer contract that would be optional for schools wishing to expand the use of technology in classrooms, said Peter Drescher, education technology coordinator.
Hawaii is waiting for Maine to complete its master contract before starting its own negotiations, said Stephanie Shipton, portfolio manager at the Office of Strategic Reform at the Hawaii Department of Education. Hawaii plans adopt a comprehensive strategy that integrates the digital devices with a statewide core curriculum, Shipton said.
The idea to give out laptops to Maine public school students was the brainchild of then-governor Angus King who said that providing technology to kids would help erase the "digital divide" between low-income students and their higher-income peers.
Late Apple CEO Steve Jobs wanted so badly to be part of the program that the company took a loss on the contract, King said.