- Associated Press - Sunday, June 22, 2014

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - School districts across the Twin Cities are trying to put iPads, laptops or other tools in the hands of students, but many are finding that financing the devices is an issue, and they are trying creative ways to fund technology improvements in the schools.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported (http://bit.ly/1uUja78 ) that educators have asked state lawmakers for funding for hand-held devices, but those requests haven’t been addressed. So many districts are turning to levies or other approaches.

“Our world is changing, our tools are changing, but there is nothing in our school funding structure to address that,” said Lisa Snyder, superintendent of Lakeville schools.

In the past few years, districts such as St. Paul, Mahtomedi and White Bear Lake have won voter support for money to buy personalized technology. But similar requests have been defeated in Stillwater, West St. Paul and Inver Grove Heights.

Some are finding that parents are skeptical. Camille Feng, a parent with three children in St. Paul Public Schools, said she worries a plan to give every student an iPad means teachers will have to compete for students’ attention.

“I think a tool can be a great thing, but I have a great concern about teachers having to manage one more thing in school,” Feng said. She also thinks the $9 million a year for technology could be better spent.

“We can’t buy tissues for teachers’ classrooms, but we are buying iPads?” Feng said. “Teachers are the trained professionals. That’s the tool we need to be putting more money into.”

Because of views like that, Lakeville is cautiously moving toward a levy. For now, administrators are encouraging students to bring their own devices to school.

Jay Haugen, Farmington schools superintendent, said his district used anticipated cost savings on textbook, printing and other expenses to help fund a three-year, $2.7 million deal to lease iPads from Apple.

“Everyone has a unique approach,” said Haugen, who also is on the board of the Minnesota Association of School Administrators. “People are doing whatever it takes because it has gotten to the point where you’re left behind if you haven’t addressed this.”

In South St. Paul, school leaders used an “Adopt a School” program in 2011 to put an interactive smart board in every classroom. Superintendent Dave Webb said business leaders and the community embraced the effort.

“It spread like wildfire,” Webb said. “It’s a model that some school districts are using and, with articulated needs, it’s happening.”

Still, Haugen hopes lawmakers will take up the issue when they return to the Capitol next year.

So far, the DFL-led Legislature has focused on items such as early education, and Republicans have said that funding for iPads should be dealt with at the local level.

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