Why is that odd, you might ask? Because after reading this post, you too will wonder if Hell hasn't frozen over.
You see, this one Los Angeles Times article hits three--count 'em, three--of my favorite topics: free education, computers in school, and the ACLU. And hold on to your hats, cowboys--much like a stopped clock that's right twice a day, the ACLU is on the correct side of this issue.
"Blasphemer! Sell out!" I can hear you screaming, but you'd be wrong. The ACLU has adopted a position here that I have long advocated and have written about on this blog.
So let's summarize this article, shall we? Fullerton School District in Orange County is urging parents to buy each student a $1500 laptop, to be used both at home and at school. Some can't afford to, and some don't want to. Parents who don't want to buy a laptop can transfer their students to other schools that do not participate in this laptop experiment. The ACLU is considering suing the district on the grounds that this program amounts to an illegal fee under the California constitution as well as several state court rulings (Hartzell v. Connell, a state supreme court ruling, being the foundation of the case), and is discriminatory.
Here are some chosen quotes from the LA Times article, to give you a flavor of the issue:
An Orange County school district's efforts to integrate technology into students' lives by urging families to purchase laptop computers is creating a furor among parents who say the pricey obligation is segregating their children into the haves and have-nots. [This segregation is why such "fees" are illegal in California--Darren]
"That's not pocket change for anybody," said Tina Maldonado, a stay-at-home mother with two children attending Rolling Hills Elementary School. "We could buy the computers, but I don't think we should have to. A public school education is supposed to be free."
The American Civil Liberties Union said this month that it's considering filing a lawsuit against the Fullerton School District, arguing that it is violating the state's constitutional guarantee to provide a free education, and is creating a two-tiered learning environment.
School officials say that all Fullerton students receive the free education guaranteed to them by the state constitution and call the laptops an optional "enrichment."
No child is denied a laptop if the family can't afford one, said Supt. Cameron McCune. But McCune has also been confronted by families who can afford a laptop but choose not to buy one. Their children, he said, can transfer to classrooms not in the laptop pilot program — and that may require transferring to a different school.
"If the reason to roll out this … program is that laptops in the hands of every single student will improve teaching and learning, it is silly," said Stanford University education professor emeritus Larry Cuban, author of "Teachers and Machines: Classroom Use of Technology Since 1920." "No body of evidence supports that." [I share Cubans thoughts in this post--Darren]
Sandra Dingess said that she and her husband couldn't afford laptops for their four children who attend Fisler, but were wary of disclosing private financial details in filling out the required paperwork. Instead, they negotiated a deal with the district: Their eighth-grader will stay at Fisler and borrow a laptop while the three others transferred to schools where laptops aren't used.I hope the school district loses big and has to cough up a lot of money. It's the only way to stop this kind of abuse.
And I hope administrators in my district, and at my school in particular, are paying attention.
Update: Oh, here's why my feet aren't cold. A quick visit to the ACLU's website reveals that they just got lucky in the case above. Look at this one:
ORANGE, CA -- Four civil rights groups today [9/27/2005] filed a motion on behalf of a racially and ethnically diverse group of parents who support the Capistrano Unified School District's (CUSD) ability to consider race to avoid segregated schools when drawing up new boundaries for attendance."School districts like CUSD should have the flexibility, when drawing attendance boundaries, to consider race for the purposes of promoting integration and avoiding segregation," said Hector O. Villagra, director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California's Orange County office and a participant in today's legal action. [emphasis mine--Darren]
There are plenty of other ones listed.