Minnesota’s constitutional guarantee of a free public school education for all eligible students means schools are prohibited from charging fees for necessary goods and services. State statutes define necessary goods and services to include instructional materials and supplies, required library books, required school activities, lockers, graduation caps and gowns, and bus fees to students who live more than two miles from school. Larson, Lisa. Minnesota's Public School Fee Law, Minnesota House of Representatives, December 2010.
My district wants to begin allowing students to take school-owned devices (iPads) home. So we need to answer the question whether we ask families to insure these devices. Insurance runs about $40 a year and districts here in MN are all over the board about whether families are required to buy insurance or not.
I can see both sides of this argument. As the quote above states, public schools in Minnesota may not charge for "necessary goods and services." If the device and the resources and activities to which it provides access are a vital part of the educational process, how can a school charge for insurance without violating the law?
One way districts skirt this rule is to require insurance only by students who take the devices home with them. When used only in school, there are no fees. Hmmmmm. Studies I've read indicate that the only time 1:1 programs impact student achievement is when kids have the devices 24/7. And are we further exacerbating the digital divide when some kids (whose families can afford insurance) take them home and some do not?
Some schools set up sliding scales based on family income, subsidizing insurance cost for families who qualify for the FRP lunch program. (Much like athletic fees.) I've heard of other districts allowing students to "work off" the insurance cost by providing a certain number of service hours for the school. Are we looking at singling out and stigmatizing kids doing this?
Yet, it's human nature that we take better care of things when we have a monetary stake in them, so I do like the idea of kids and their families having a little "skin in the game" when it comes to the treatment of school-owned technology.
But I don't really see how we can charge kids for the right to take these devices home if they are truly a "necessary good."
And if they are not truly necessary, why go to the cost of a 1:1 project in the first place?
I love to hear the thoughts of readers on this topic. I am truly ambivalent!