Despite new PC option, Apple technology dominates school laptop orders

Apple laptops are stored in a cabinet at Orono Middle School on June 12, 2013. School systems across the state are deciding whether to keep the Apple computers or switch to LePage Administration preferred Hewlett-Packard laptops for students.
Carter F. McCall
Apple laptops are stored in a cabinet at Orono Middle School on June 12, 2013. School systems across the state are deciding whether to keep the Apple computers or switch to LePage Administration preferred Hewlett-Packard laptops for students. Buy Photo
Posted June 14, 2013, at 5:53 p.m.
Last modified June 15, 2013, at 5:39 a.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — A new option for schools in the state-funded student laptop program introduced earlier this year by Gov. Paul LePage has found relatively few takers, according to the Department of Education.

The majority of schools will stick with Apple Corp. technology, though many will switch from laptops to iPads. A third option introduced this year by the LePage administration, Hewlett Packard ProBook 4440 laptops, attracted only about 8 percent of orders for the next four years of the Maine Learning Technology Initiative. The Department of Education will place an order for the nearly 70,000 computers on Monday.

The Maine Learning Technology Initiative program, which was introduced in 2002 during Gov. Angus King’s administration, provides computers to all of the state’s middle schoolers and teachers through grade 12. Dozens of high schools have also opted to join the program, though at local taxpayers’ expense.

According to data from the Department of Education, about 39,500 students and educators will begin using Apple’s iPad tablet at a state-covered cost of $266 a year per computer next fall. Another 24,000 students and educators have ordered Apple’s MacBook Air laptop, which costs $319 per machine. Approximately 5,500 chose the HP option at a cost of $286 per year. The state will cover the cost of the program up to the cost of the HP computers, meaning the schools that chose the MacBook Air option will have to pick up the price difference on their own.

The state spends approximately $15 million per year on the program.

“These devices put students in the driver’s seat, said Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen in a prepared statement. “Modern educational software adjusts to each child in ways that a teacher cannot, providing increased instruction on a concept where students need it and less when they don’t. The result is an educational system in Maine that is truly able to meet the needs of all students as it prepares them for college and careers in an increasingly digital world.”

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