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Updated: Michigan politicians propose OiPodPC


Updated: It has come to our attention through comments and several e-mails that the Maine laptop project is still very much alive and well. According to at least one reader the initiative was renewed with Apple last August. We apologize for the misinformation.

When Maine decided to start a statewide laptop initiative in 2002 and hand out an Apple iBook to all seventh- and eighth-grade students, there was a great deal of discussion regarding the usefulness of such a tool for every student. The program wasn't cheap, costing the state $37.2 million over a four-year period. In most states, this type of thing wouldn't have had a chance to progress, but the people in "Vacationland" decided that they were ready for such an initiative. To many, it wasn't much of a surprise when the end of the contract rolled around and the state decided to end the program, deciding that the benefits didn't justify the cost of the program.

Since the end of the Maine program, similar laptop programs have been put in place in other states and districts, but nothing to the scale of the four-year Maine program. However, democrats in Michigan are interested in taking that title from Maine and have recently proposed a project in which they would spend $38 million on iPods for all Michigan students. Why not? The illustrious Duke University does it. Well, for starters Duke University charges $32,845 per year for full-time students, before room and board. Michigan's public school tuition is slightly lower. Considering that the proposed iPod program will cost Michigan as much as the iBook program did in Maine, we can imagine why some people are a bit upset.

Details are unfortunately a bit scant. We aren't sure what kind of iPods are proposed—one article said iPods or MP3 players—and we don't know if "every" student really means every student. I can't imagine an iPod being a particularly valuable learning device for a kindergartner. We also aren't sure if the state would purchase the iPods from Apple or perhaps lease a large quantity from them. It seems that they would need to buy unless Apple came up with a custom lease program just for this case.

The truth of the matter is we will probably never find out the details of this proposal as it seems very unlikely to pass. People are going to have a hard time justifying the program, especially during a "budget crisis."