I am writing to thank Liz Bowie and Pamela Wood for their continuing efforts to tell the full story of Baltimore County's expensive but flawed student devices program (“Four years in, Baltimore County schools' $147M laptop program has produced little change in student achievement,” Dec. 14). I first became aware of the enormous cost and foreseeable flaws of the program while attending a local forum with candidates for elective positions to the county school board. According to two of those candidates, the program was promoted by Superintendent Dallas Dance and supported by the Kamenetz administration, which provided funding from a discretionary source. According to the candidates, the superintendent chose the most expensive options, including the purchase of a device for every student in the school system on a one-for-one basis. The estimated total cost of the program is in the hundreds of millions of dollars (“Money wasted on BCPS laptops is 'staggering,'” Dec. 19).
I thought about this more recently when I read an article about the Housing Authority of Baltimore City, which had entered into a contract with Verizon that provides free devices to housing authority tenants, while the authority is required to pay a data fee of only $10 per month (“Baltimore public housing residents given tablets, internet connection under initiative to connect more online,” Sept. 4).
As your article points out, the program was hastily implemented with little thought given to support services that would be required, including the cost of replacement devices and inadequate preparation given to teachers and students. One of the consequences of this is that students I know have told me that some teachers resort to handing out packets of materials, rather than actually teaching. I find this situation deplorable.
Thank you for your fine investigative article and your continued interest in Baltimore County's troubled school system.