Charge It!

A small law office client of mine needs a new main office printer and has been hemming and hawing over leasing one that cooks dinner and takes out the trash (and keeping it for the next 11 years) versus buying one that they can afford to throw away when the warranty expires.

Meanwhile, every car dealer in the known universe trumpets cars for as little as $169/month [with “$3,499.00 due at signing” in very very small print]. Still, I was gratified to see that the re-designed Mercedes SL550 has lost some weight, gained some size, has great mirrors, and will now cost you a little more than it used to. $895.00 per month with $0 down on a low mileage 30 month lease. “Low mileage” means about 63 miles/month in car land.

Huh. For that I can get a Hyundai Equus!

Leases are often more expensive than we expect. The regular special offer for the Mercedes is $1,299/month for 24 months with $7,093 due at signing.

That’s just the intro.

Miami-Dade wants to assure that every student in their school district has a digital device. They’re not talking about cellphones or pocket Pacmen.

Superintendent Alberto Carvalho plans to lease more than 100,000 devices — it isn’t quite exactly clear what they will get — through Bank of America Public Capital for $63 or so million. That’s about $12 million a year which the schools will pay off over the next six.

I’m thinking they have laptops and iPads in mind for students from kindergarten through 12th grade who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford them.

“It’s unprecedented in the United States, this type of purchase,” Justin Bathon of the University of Kentucky’s CASTLE center on school technology leadership told the Miami Herald.

I love the idea of putting technology in student hands. My class at Stevens was the last the institute required to buy slide rules. Now college students are expected to own laptops and PDAs. The next gen will have implants.

There are just a couple of issues Miami-Dade needs to overcome.

  • Students need current technology. The first iPad was released on April 3, 2010. There have been five generations in those three years. Six years from now there may not even be an iPad.
  • A lease in which you own the product at the end ain’t a lease. It’s a purchase.
  • All taxpayers deserve equal treatment. If the kids in the back rows get freebies, it’s not fair to make the kids in the front rows pay the full freight. That’s an extra tax.

Mr. Carvalho is working wonders in Miami-Dade. He has cut $400 million from the nearly $4.3 billion budget and built the district’s reserves to more than $70 million. He cut the administrative staff by almost 600 people, pushing the most of them back into the classroom. Still there are 53,100 employees for over 400,000 students.

He can work wonders in technology this fall as well. Here’s how.

  • Call it a purchase.
  • Understand that, just like textbooks, electronic devices have finite lives. Unlike textbooks, electronic devices have far shorter lives.
  • Make a plan to buy and deploy 400,000 devices and replace them every 1-2 school years.
  • Replace all textbooks and all library books with electronic editions.

Surprisingly, that’s likely to cost [only] about twice as much as the current $63 million initiative and it makes a lot more sense.


2 thoughts on “Charge It!

    • Yes, Indeedy!

      They could change it to one employee for every NINE students and have enough $$ left over to give every student an iPad AND a book.

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