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Ann Arbor Schools Want $45M For Tech, Partly For Computers To Run Google Docs

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the air-force-bake-sale-any-day dept.

Education 248

An anonymous reader writes "The Ann Arbor Public Schools defended their request for a $45 million bond for new computers by claiming that Apple eMacs aren't good enough for their Advanced Journalism class. A teacher told reporters that new PCs are needed to run WordPress, Google Docs, and Adobe InDesign CS6. WordPress and Google Docs are server-based applications that can be accessed with nearly any web browser. InDesign CS6 has not been released yet and its system requirements are unknown. As a web developer, I am impressed by the online newspaper published by the journalism class, but I question the need for new hardware. The district previously claimed that the old computers couldn't run its standardized testing software, although they far surpass the vendor's specifications. Does modern education really require cutting-edge computers, or are schools screaming 'think of the children' to win over tech-illiterate voters?" Whatever the answer to that question, exaggerated system requirements aren't the only driving force; the $45 million bond sought would not be dedicated only to replacing journalism program computers, note; it would also be used to fund other infrastructure upgrades, including some lower-tech updates, like new sound amplifiers in the district's classrooms. Ann Arbor schools' web site says that the district has (as of 2010, at least) 16,440 students. What are tech outlays like in the public schools where you live?

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Seems a little inflated... (5, Insightful)

gr3yh47 (2023310) | more than 2 years ago | (#39208619)

$2700 and change per student seems a little high for a tech budget...

Re:Seems a little inflated... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39208639)

When you're spending other people's money, and taking a cut for yourself ("adminstration"), the object is to waste more, not less.

Re:Seems a little inflated... (5, Funny)

tripleevenfall (1990004) | more than 2 years ago | (#39208783)

IT'S FOR THE CHILDREN!

Re:Seems a little inflated... (3, Funny)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | more than 2 years ago | (#39208691)

There are teachers (like any industry) that are notorious for thinking they know more than the techs that have dedicated their lives and education to it.

That's human nature. Think Dilbert's boss.

Re:Seems a little inflated... (3, Interesting)

citizenr (871508) | more than 2 years ago | (#39209065)

There are teachers (like any industry) that are notorious for thinking they know more than the techs that have dedicated their lives and education to it.

That's human nature. Think Dilbert's boss.

exxample
http://failblog.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/homework-class-test-school-of-fail-stop-being-all-defiant-and-right-about-things-dammit.jpg [wordpress.com]

Re:Seems a little inflated... (4, Interesting)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 2 years ago | (#39209565)

I work in Education. As unfortunate as that example is, things like this are not that uncommon. I get reminded at least weekly, sometimes daily, how STUPID (yes, I'll use that word) our educators really are, especially when it comes to Technology. However they have a pieces of paper that tells them they are "smart and smarter than everyone else" via their degree and teaching credential.

And 45 Million for technology is not that steep for a school district. Infrastructure (LAN, WAN, Servers, Cabling etc). When people complain about 45 million being too expensive, they haven't done larger projects like upgrading infrastructure. Infrastructure costs money, and needs to be replaced about every ten years for networking equipment. While I'm sure there is what some people call "waste" in the 45 million, it probably isn't quite as bad as many think.

And if they are doing a 45 Million dollar bond, I'd make damn sure it went primarily for infrastructure and not computers or peripheral equipment. In a school system that size, 45 Million should just about cover top down infrastructure coverage.

Re:Seems a little inflated... (3, Informative)

aussiedood (577993) | more than 2 years ago | (#39208727)

Not if they're planning to buy Apple products ;)

Re:Seems a little inflated... (0)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 2 years ago | (#39208919)

These are civil servants. They have strong incentives to be wasteful. I don't think the relative costs of Macs is really relevant here. They would find a way to burn through that money regardless of what platform they were deploying.

Just about anyone here could do better with less even with Apple kit.

I can't help thinking about all of those perfectly usable monitors that will go into the trash heap just because they are built into the machine.

Re:Seems a little inflated... (4, Interesting)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#39208981)

" They have strong incentives to be wasteful."
STFU. I word with civil servants, and they are far, FAR more responsible with money then people in the private sector.

"Just about anyone here could do better with less even with Apple kit."
No. Just about everyone here thinks that, but have never done a wide scale implementation of a reliable service and equipment.
The parent to this thread makes the mistake of thinking its only machines. Infrastructure costs a lot of money.

Re:Seems a little inflated... (4, Insightful)

datavirtue (1104259) | more than 2 years ago | (#39209103)

You must have stepped through the stargate because in my world public servants don't give a rat's ass about saving money unless we are talking about THEIR budget. Many times the wasteful spending happens outside the realm of a departmental budget. Special projects are always justified and then the money is spent.

Re:Seems a little inflated... (0)

g0bshiTe (596213) | more than 2 years ago | (#39209329)

So they intend to revamp their entire infrastructure computer wise? I just read the article and it's so full of crap, they got new computers in 2004, are you telling me that those are no good now and they need to replace 8100+ of 8200+ systems, on top of that they want to get students iPads? Why? "Some of the money will go to wireless infrastructure upgrades", no doubt to support the iPads. "Other funds will go to upgrade infrastructure to support higher speeds", do they really need this for a school? When I see this it reads like they need faster internet speed and nothing more, anything on the network itself should be plenty fast. I can see reworking the heating/cooling of the servers as that will extend their life and usefulness but still they way they spend I imagine they will just replace them. These people are not looking to help the children. This is one district. 45 million doesn't seem exorbitant to you?

Re:Seems a little inflated... (1)

camperslo (704715) | more than 2 years ago | (#39209265)

$2700 and change per student seems a little high for a tech budget...

I don't see any reason why they couldn't be doing this with free recycled computers. It's not that uncommon for some systems only a couple of years old to get dumped with nothing more than malware causing trouble. Recycle and put OSS to work. Get students involved, and when going through computers to use, take some that are not quite up to spec and set them up to handy out to needy students or local poor people. Surely there are also some talented parents willing to volunteer time and help. They can do more than sell cupcakes and cookies to help schools. And upgraded amplifiers? Get a local college and local high school electronics classes to partner in designing and assembling some. If they have any faith at all in the future of the students they're supposedly teach, they should help them to help themselves. Teach students that something can still be made in America. Have multiple groups of them come up with competing designs, then merge the best ideas for the final product. And what of the unemployed in the region? Surely some of them have skills that could be used to help. Raw components are dirt cheap. Give students a thirt for learning and building things. From a pile of old PC power supplies, VCRs, and boards out of old c.r.t. monitors students could make their own amplifiers and all sorts of projects to have fun with at home and in optional shop-type classes or off-hours activity. Give them something fun to do, and there'll likely be less gang and drug activity too. Think of how much money that could save.
I smell contractor pork. And electronics imported from elsewhere. Government must become more efficient. $2700 per student is obscene. They could give every student a new MacBook, run servers, and give them all free fiber optic at home for less than that. Which of course is not necessary to a good education. Teach students by good example, how to manage spending. It sounds like some bureaucrats need to go back to school and learn a few things, or end up as part of the lunch program. Every body is good for something.

Re:Seems a little inflated... (4, Informative)

donny77 (891484) | more than 2 years ago | (#39209435)

I'm sorry, donated equipment only reduces acquisition cost. What about SUPPORT costs? It is much cheaper to support 1000 identical machines as you can use imaging, stock minimal replacement parts and so forth. Having 1000 machines with 50 different configs is going to increase cost and up-time. Typically these institutions are running somewhere around 1 technician per 500-700 machines while the "private" sector is supposedly around 1 technician per 150-250 machines. But, it's not YOUR problem right? Make them use donated stuff!

Re:Seems a little inflated... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39209409)

Not only that, they are proposing to borrow money to purchase rapidly depreciating assets. The Ann Arbor tax payers will be paying for these computers long after they are in a landfill somewhere. Even if the computers were needed (which they probably aren't), this should be part of the schools' regular budget, and if they can't afford them, then teach the kids the old fashioned way - pencils, paper, and instruction by teachers. What a concept.

eMacs? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39208693)

Apple stopped production on the eMac line back in 2006. Assuming they got the last one for sale, that means a 6 year lifespan. Sounds like they're due for a replacement.

Re:eMacs? (1)

anagama (611277) | more than 2 years ago | (#39208885)

It's worse than that -- the last revision of the eMac was in May of 2005, with the 1.42 ghz G4. I believe that the machines would choke running a modern browser hitting a script heavy site. Plus, I think Apple stopped providing security updates to non-intel macs a long time ago.

Re:eMacs? (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | more than 2 years ago | (#39209765)

And no way they'd run InDesign 4 much less 6. Which is what most newspapers do actual design & layout on.

Re:eMacs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39208921)

Dude, 6 years old means these computers are YOUNG for public schools. Our district is still using a lot of win2000 boxes although most have been upgraded to winXP.

Re:eMacs? (5, Insightful)

gman003 (1693318) | more than 2 years ago | (#39209021)

Due for replacement? That's putting it mildly. Especially since:
a) They're way unsupported, even by Open Source. First off, they're PowerPC chips - the highest version of Mac OS you can put on them is 10.5, which quite a lot of programs don't support - even some open-source ones. And I've tried installing Linux on an eMac - I never actually got it working. So their best option may be upgrading.
b) The eMac was the "cheap, low-power" Apple computer. It used cheaper, lower-end parts, often already outdated (it used G4 chips until the end, while iMacs made the jump to G5 two years earlier). I can totally believe that they're unable to run Illustrator. Even current versions of Firefox might be a bit of a stretch, since I doubt the PPC builds are as heavily optimized as the x86 ones. Keep in mind, this is a machine with 256MB of RAM and, at best, a 1.4gHz, single-core processor, about on par with a Pentium II. Most of the students probably have more processing power in their phones.
c) It's a freaking CRT screen. A 1280x960 CRT screen. I would absolutely hate trying to do graphics work on one of them.

Re:eMacs? (1)

kthreadd (1558445) | more than 2 years ago | (#39209217)

A G4 is certainly not on par with a P2, that would be the PowerPC 603e or similar.
A G4 is more similar in performance to a P3 or P4.

Re:eMacs? (1)

gman003 (1693318) | more than 2 years ago | (#39209505)

My bad - meant to type III. Keys seem to be sticking a bit today...

Re:eMacs? (1)

Yebyen (59663) | more than 2 years ago | (#39209613)

b) The eMac was the "cheap, low-power" Apple computer. It used cheaper, lower-end parts, often already outdated (it used G4 chips until the end, while iMacs made the jump to G5 two years earlier). I can totally believe that they're unable to run Illustrator. Even current versions of Firefox might be a bit of a stretch, since I doubt the PPC builds are as heavily optimized as the x86 ones.

> Even current versions of Firefox might be a bit of a stretch, since I doubt the PPC builds are as heavily optimized as the x86 ones.

I was just trying to load up my G4 Mac Mini a few days ago, which was still running Leopard, only option on a PPC mac...

There are no current Firefox builds for G4/Leopard OS. At the time I was last running on this machine, Firefox for Mac available was at 2.0.0.x, and today, you can't even download a recent Firefox 3.6.x, let alone a build of the newer Firefox 4-10 series.

Since Gmail nags me when I visit with a version as recent as Firefox/Iceweasel from Debian Lenny, or anything older than the most recent 3.x firefoxes, to "upgrade to a modern browser" (which is just not available in Debian Lenny)

These macs would be suffering from all the same issues.

Re:eMacs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39209707)

Firefox 3.6.27 still being built for Mac, which includes PowerPC support, even for 10.4.x:

http://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/all-older.html

Them's old computers (1)

Moblaster (521614) | more than 2 years ago | (#39208723)

The eMac line uses G4 chips (not Intel) and was discontinued in 2006. Mac speed 700mhz. Probably not much RAM. They were very nice machines in their day. That day has passed. Now much software requires Intel, and they can't run the latest version of the Mac OS (Lion). So yeah, it's time for new hardware.

From there, you could argue how cutting edge the new stuff should be. But if they are buying on a 6+ plus replacement cycle, it's best to at least buy at today's hockey-stick price point where you get maximum power CPUs at the best bang-for-the-buck -- i.e. just a bit short of the overpriced bleeding edge chips.

Re:Them's old computers (2)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 2 years ago | (#39208831)

What does running "the latest and greatest" have to do with journalism exactly? Just use the old tools. Software doesn't wear out. Just what sort of revolutionary changes are supposed to have occurred in these programs in the interim?

Although the costs they're citing for replacements seem bloated even for Apple gear.

Re:Them's old computers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39208989)

What does running "the latest and greatest" have to do with journalism exactly?

I think they've renamed the journalism course as "Blogging in the Blogosphere". They have a blog about it.

Re:Them's old computers (3, Insightful)

Sancho (17056) | more than 2 years ago | (#39209007)

This is also for teaching the tools. Do you train on NT4?

Re:Them's old computers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39209847)

No, we use OS/2 Warp as a teaching platform!

Re:Them's old computers (2)

shadowrat (1069614) | more than 2 years ago | (#39209191)

i don't think google docs existed in 2006. If it did i think people thought it was a crazy idea to implement a whole office suite in javascript. While i don't think the students NEED to use cs6, using google docs is sensible. I'm not surprised if it works like ass on a 6 year old iMac. I have a 4 year old laptop that struggles with it.

Re:Them's old computers (1)

mspohr (589790) | more than 2 years ago | (#39209291)

Yeah!
let them use a pencil!
Make them clean bathrooms also!
damn kids today ...

Re:Them's old computers (1)

MasterOfGoingFaster (922862) | more than 2 years ago | (#39209925)

Surprise! The corporate world is generally using really old computers and software. Engineering is using AutoCAD 2000, Office 2003, and Windows XP. Marketing is using Quark Xpress. The ERP system is an old AS400 running software that is decades old. And they still have Netware servers - a lot of them.

So if you really want to train the kids for the "real world", buying the latest/greatest may not be your best use of money.

Our schools recently upgraded all of their tech (2)

elgeeko.com (2472782) | more than 2 years ago | (#39208735)

They're now using #3 pencils instead of #2.

45 million dollars (-1, Offtopic)

mhh91 (1784516) | more than 2 years ago | (#39208739)

Is more than enough to feed the entire population of Somalia, a nation that is struggling with starvation.

And they want to spend this much money on computers?

Re:45 million dollars (2, Insightful)

Xacid (560407) | more than 2 years ago | (#39208871)

Screw it, I'll bite.

Your salary could probably feed the entire country if you use their rates. What's your point? They've already banked a few million from their pirating and are still starving - what's that tell you?

More aid in that general direction doesn't seem to really help those groups in the long term. There's a lot of "feeding them fish" instead of "teaching them to fish" going on that's creating codependence, not self-reliance.

Not a chance... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39208749)

There is not a chance in the world the county government where I live would float a bond anywhere close to that size for technology upgrades, especially when those upgrades might by obsolete in 3-5 years. For the size system we have, with the same spending per student, that would be roughly $22 million. Even if we hadn't just floated $100M worth of bonds for building 2 high schools and a middle school, there would be zero chance of that passing. Typically, technology here is funded at the school level though PTA fund raising. It was quite the big deal when they announced that all of the elementary school classrooms in the county were not equipped with Smartboards, after 7 years of fundraising. The school board would be run out on a rail for suggesting such a bond.

Sigh, slashdot is rather prone to hyperbole (5, Insightful)

FhnuZoag (875558) | more than 2 years ago | (#39208757)

As TFA says, "more than half of the $45.8 million, about $25 million, would be spent to replace the district’s computers — both laptops and desktops.". So that comes down to 1520/student. More importantly, this is for a program of improvements over the next *ten years*, not an immediate replacement job - as the article argues that the >3 years old computers currently in use are obsolete, I assume the money might fund more than one cycle of improvements. At one cycle per 3 years, we're talking ~500 dollars per student, not accounting for inflation, which seems pretty sensible. Anyway this all seems like a storm in a teacup.

Re:Sigh, slashdot is rather prone to hyperbole (3, Informative)

Xacid (560407) | more than 2 years ago | (#39208827)

My favorite part was the line "InDesign CS6 has not been released yet and its system requirements are unknown". Can't just look at the previous release's specs and project from there? Jesus, what kind of non-IT fella wrote this garbage?

I don't think their request is unreasonable - as it even states within the summary itself that it'll also be used to upgrade the infrastructure as well.

Re:Sigh, slashdot is rather prone to hyperbole (1)

gr3yh47 (2023310) | more than 2 years ago | (#39208863)

But they dont need one computer per student... so even 1520 per student is quite high. also... even if it was one computer per student, 1520 per computer is quite high. Dell has education discounts, they could easily get well above average computers for ~$600. even at the rate of 1 computer per 2 children (still seems unnecessary) you're looking at $300 per student; thus, this is overbudgeted by 1220/student, or about 80%...

Re:Sigh, slashdot is rather prone to hyperbole (4, Informative)

TheSeventh (824276) | more than 2 years ago | (#39209051)

I'm going to guess that some of that money per computer is going to be used for software licenses . . . I don't know. Even with an education discount, there's more than just the cost of the hardware.

Re:Sigh, slashdot is rather prone to hyperbole (3, Insightful)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 2 years ago | (#39209835)

Have you ever bought gear from Dell as a non-consumer? Sometimes I wonder about the people on this site, aren't we supposed to be techs? My company typically spends between $1200 and $1500 on every Dell we buy. Sure you can get one for $400: it will be obsolete before it's delivered, includes one year of self service warranty, has no monitor, and is generally the last thing you want for wide scale deployment.

You also can't just say "Get one computer per 2 students." It doesn't work like that. They don't buy computers based on students, they buy them based on classroom space. You need 32 computers in a 32 seat classroom if that classroom is going to be used for computers classes, you might need no computers in an English classroom. You need labs, which are often fully stocked with a computer on every desk, but except during crunch times probably not 100% utilized. You need computers for teachers, or are they supposed to just teach the computer classes from the chalkboard? In elementary schools you can probably get away with a simple two or three computers per student, in high schools and middle schools where students change classrooms every hour or so it's a lot more complicated.

Have you ever run a wide scale deployment? Have you ever worked in a school district? My guess is no to both.

Re:Sigh, slashdot is rather prone to hyperbole (1)

datavirtue (1104259) | more than 2 years ago | (#39209253)

We need to get on a "bring your own device" model. If it is laden with viruses, your problem, grades will suffer. People need to own and maintain their own devices anyway. ITS FOR THE CHILDREN! Children have parents--sometimes. If we start with the BYOD model people will adapt. It is not that big of an inconvenience.

Re:Sigh, slashdot is rather prone to hyperbole (2)

BZWingZero (1119881) | more than 2 years ago | (#39209903)

But what about those students who cannot afford a computer at all? How are they supposed to complete their assignments?

Michigan Teacher Weighs In (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39209673)

As a Computer Science teacher from Michigan, I am disappointed by the lack of resourcefulness exhibited by the Ann Arbor school administrators. Currently, I am in a room filled with equipment from:

Selfridge ANGB
U.S. Navy
Corporations
Universities
Many local sources

All of this equipment was acquired for FREE. All that I have had to occasionally pay is shipping. The lowest end equipment that I have is P4 2.8Ghz. We run Untangle as an Internet gateway through Comcast for FREE. I suggest that Ann Arbor Schools look to the following to reduce their costs:

U of M
http://computersforlearning.gov/
Meijer
etc.

There is a trust issue here. Once the public knows that the schools are working hard to rein in costs, then they can reasonably ask for what they need. A tech wish list without due diligence and fiduciary constraint is just asking to be flamed.

eMacs (5, Informative)

jackherer (82221) | more than 2 years ago | (#39208767)

eMacs are PowerPC based and therefore won't run recent versions of Mac OS and also won't run recent versions of Safari or Firefox. I wouldn't be surprised if this means they don't support Google Docs etc fully or even at all.

They really are pretty much useless these days, I have just retired an office full of them that have been soldiering on for years but the number of websites that were simply not available to them became too great.

Re:eMacs (1)

deomacius (855131) | more than 2 years ago | (#39208851)

This is correct. Google Docs (and many other apps) no longer support this architecture at all. Plus, they are dog slow now.

Truth is about eMacs .... (1)

King_TJ (85913) | more than 2 years ago | (#39208933)

They were Apple's very last system to use a standard CRT monitor instead of a flat panel. That alone relegates them to the realm of "antiquated hardware" in many people's eyes, no matter what else they're capable of doing.

I'd venture to say the Apple eMac is generally looked upon as the least desirable Mac Apple released ever since the dawn of OS X. Not sure that's really a fair assessment -- but it's the reality of the situation.
 

Emac is PPC and intel mac cost a lot (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#39208773)

The new $999 MacBook Air to education buyers is to small screen and under powered for CS 5 / CS 6 (2 GB RAM max).

Re:Emac is PPC and intel mac cost a lot (1)

blue_adept (40915) | more than 2 years ago | (#39208987)

I use InDesign CS5 on my Acer Aspire 1 (Win XP) netbook with 1 gig of RAM. Just sayin'.

xp is older os the new mac come with 10.7 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39209767)

xp is older os the new mac come with 10.7.

For the pc try running CS 5 on a system with 7 and only 2gb ram.

eMacs not good enough? (2)

gzipped_tar (1151931) | more than 2 years ago | (#39208779)

eMacs not good enough? But I never know vi costs so much!

Re:eMacs not good enough? (1)

jackherer (82221) | more than 2 years ago | (#39208943)

eMacs run Emacs just fine.

school systems are a big cash cow (2, Informative)

apcullen (2504324) | more than 2 years ago | (#39208797)

Voters get conned into voting for higher school budgets because they want better schools and higher property values, but the truth is much of the money is wasted. I voted against several school budgets that had over $1mil set aside for landscaping.

Re:school systems are a big cash cow (2)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#39209063)

Thanks you letting us known how ignorant you are on these subjects.

Re:school systems are a big cash cow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39209383)

Would the people voting up the above comment go back to watching your classes please? We don't pay you to read Slashdot, we pay you to teach!

Re:school systems are a big cash cow (1)

TheSeventh (824276) | more than 2 years ago | (#39209105)

It's not like Ann Arbor city taxes are all that high, so it might be okay. For a SEV of about $100,000 (property value of $200,000), it will only cost you about $5,000 a year. I say, "Go For It!"

Re:school systems are a big cash cow (4, Informative)

Mabhatter (126906) | more than 2 years ago | (#39209521)

The thing about Michigan is that about half the local school taxes go to the state and get redistributed. The law that allows that also prevents localities from passing separate taxes to compensate, and it limited the rate properties could appreciate That was a good heal fro districts like Klalaska that weren't paying their fair share, but for districts like Ann Arbor that were full of educators and professionals willing to pay taxes for good public schools it slashed their budgets.

The way around the rule is to put any link of hardware or property improvements in a separate tax do more of your allocation can pay for teachers.

Re:school systems are a big cash cow (1)

Sectoid_Dev (232963) | more than 2 years ago | (#39209775)

Voters get conned into voting for higher school budgets because they want better schools and higher property values, but the truth is much of the money is wasted. I voted against several school budgets that had over $1mil set aside for landscaping.

Indeed, students should be outside doing the landscaping themselves. Dual credits in PE and vocational training -ftw!

When people say... (3, Insightful)

Nyder (754090) | more than 2 years ago | (#39208807)

... it's about the children, it's never about the children.

Re:When people say... (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#39209081)

False, of course its about the children. Is it the best thing for the children? well that's a different question.

I grew up in AAPS... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39208809)

...and while I can't comment directly on the current proposal ($2k/student seems like it ought to be able to buy a LOT), I can say that Ann Arbor has simply incredible public schools -- on par with your average private school education. They also gobble money up in ludicrous quantities, mind, but you can see the value. The teachers, especially at the high school level, are intelligent, motivated, and skilled at their craft. This is a university town, meaning that millages for the schools are seldom rejected.

Web apps need browsers (2)

homsar (2461440) | more than 2 years ago | (#39208813)

The eMac OS support tops out at either 10.4 or 10.5 depending on processor speed, and uses a PowerPC architecture. I'd imagine that current-generation browsers are starting to get harder to get hold of for PPC, and web apps tend to demand up-to-date browsers.

The last eMac was released almost seven years ago. Seven years is not a short upgrade cycle even for educational machines by any stretch of the imagination.

Thus the upgrade is not unjustified (heck, even if the web app was unjustified, you'd still need new machines for a current version of Indesign, which is kind of a requirement for an "advanced" journalism class). Whether the budget allocated for the planned upgrade is justified is another matter, though.

In all cases such as these... (1)

Sfing_ter (99478) | more than 2 years ago | (#39208825)

In all cases such as these, look to the people in charge... either a powerful teacher/board member/it lead/administrator has it in their head that these purchases are necessary and have gathered hoards behind their cause. Wether or not they do need them is not necessarily an issue, it is the IDEA that they need them that counts in these minds. Politics is everywhere. Also, someone should alert Redmond, as there is a school district using other than Microsoft Produkts with which to compute.

See what your options are (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | more than 2 years ago | (#39208841)

I think it's premature to rule one way or the other without looking very carefully at it.

If it's 45M for journalism classes and only that... then I feel it's probably a waste because we don't have a pressing need for huge numbers of journalists. The industry is already saturated.

If they wanted 45M for programming classes or something more practical then I might see it differently. But for journalism? Page layout is not that complicated. Why do high school students need to learn how to layout a newspaper when in all likelihood only one student out of a thousand will actually be a journalist. And of that, probably one out of a hundred thousand will actually lay pages out. And even then how long does it take a professional journalist to learn how to lay a page out?

The whole concept of a highly digital modern journalism class with expensive materials in this economic climate seems extremely wasteful and pointless.

My mind isn't closed on the issue but they'd have to make a REALLY good case for getting that kind of money for that kind of class.

Re:See what your options are (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#39209135)

45M, over 10 years. Infrastructural improvements, system replacements. So,no. It's not a big deal.

People are acting like the got a 45M dollar bond are just taking it to the apple store for one giant purchase.

Re:See what your options are (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | more than 2 years ago | (#39209261)

for a high school journalism program it is excessive.

Re:See what your options are (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39209423)

It is for the entire school district with over 16,000 students and likely over 1,000 teachers plus administration. The journalism class was just one (relatively weak) example. It may not be the best plan or even a plan that I would approve of but it certainly isn't an unreasonable plan.

Teach a "Build-A-PC" Class in the High School(s) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39208855)

If they're not buying highly engineered computers (like Macs), then IMHO the high school(s) should teach a Build-A-PC class, and set up production to build commodity computers for the rest of the school system. [Just like auto shop used to be a stepping stone to a good job.]

The district can flex its buying power to stock well priced components.

And the district might try to get a grant from Intel (or AMD) to set this up as a model (national scale) program.

Misleading headline... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39208857)

Come on now, there's simply no need for such a misleading headline, suggesting that the school district wants insanely powerful computers to run Google docs. As the summary and full article point out, they want to run other software, including InDesign CS6. Sure, we do not yet know the system requirements of CS6, but do you really think an eMac will run it? Not to mention some of that money is going toward various infrastructure upgrades. They're not trying to buy a $2700 computer for each and every student.

The tech industry is starting to grow in Ann Arbor. Google has an office there, along with other tech and network companies. I can understand the district wants their schools to be able to provide a decent level of computing power for students who might well be going into those fields in the near future.

Re:Misleading headline... (1)

TheSeventh (824276) | more than 2 years ago | (#39209551)

The first article is about Ann Arbor Community High School, and they are the ones with the eMacs. I doubt Pioneer, Huron, or Skyline are still using ancient computers which were pieces of crap when they were new. So, while AACHS might get some new computers, upgrades could be made for some of the other high schools.

Also, new servers would be needed, and on top of the actual hardware cost, you have to pay someone to set up all of the machines, install the software (or at least create the master image and set it for automatic distribution), etc. You can't just go out and buy inexpensive Dell machines for $600 a piece and be done with it. Hardware cost is probably the least expensive part of the equation. Software licenses, set up, installation, etc would easily be more than that.

Slashdot just "jumped the shark". (0)

Cragen (697038) | more than 2 years ago | (#39208875)

I personally don't live anywhere near Wisconsin and really don't think anyone but those who live in that district should have any say, whatsever, what the FLYING FSCK the people of that community spend on their school system. What arrogance. this is my last post to Slashdot. Cya. Unbelievable.

Re:Slashdot just "jumped the shark". (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39209053)

This is a reasonable concern not just locally but globally. Has our educational system lost its ability to spend/request/use tools for the right reasons? Are our educators qualified to make these kinds of decisions? Personally I try to help my local district make some decisions about technology - hopefully other technology experts are doing this too.

Some side points:
1 - Check your geography. Ann Arbor is in Michigan - adjacent to Wisconsin but not the same STATE. Obviously education dollars were not spend well wherever you live.
2- RTFA/RTFQ - There is a bigger question here about how much is your school district spending on technology for education - you arrogant bastard.
3 - You should be concerned because if this is happening in Ann Arbor, it is probably happening in your backyard too. Unless you don't care where your tax dollars are spent - if that is the case mail a money order to "SPEND A TON on COMPUTERS", c/o Ann Arbor Public School District, 2555 South State Street, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104....

Re:Slashdot just "jumped the shark". (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39209075)

I hope you are joking, becase Ann Arbor is located in the state of MICHIGAN. I would think most people would know that since there is a college of some notoriety located in the same town. I've never stepped foot in the state and I know that. Anthing you say after that doesn't matter.

Re:Slashdot just "jumped the shark". (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39209099)

And I wonder where Slashdot is homed...

Re:Slashdot just "jumped the shark". (1)

uberdilligaff (988232) | more than 2 years ago | (#39209121)

Curiously enough, Ann Arbor is in Michigan, not Wisconsin. Wisconsin is sorta near Michigan, though...

Re:Slashdot just "jumped the shark". (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#39209147)

"this is my last post to Slashdot."
If I had a nickle every time I read that....I'd have a buck 65.

You're not leaving and you know it.

Re:Slashdot just "jumped the shark". (1)

c0d3g33k (102699) | more than 2 years ago | (#39209159)

I personally don't live anywhere near Wisconsin ...

Geography FIAL. Or perhaps just an inadvertent non-sequitor.

Ann Arbor is in Michigan. In the corner of the state farthest away from Wisconsin.

... and really don't think anyone but those who live in that district should have any say, whatsever, what the FLYING FSCK the people of that community spend on their school system.

Ok, agreed. But perhaps learning about what happens in other school districts can prepare people for similar situations in their own?

What arrogance. this is my last post to Slashdot. Cya. Unbelievable.

So long. Thanks for all the ghoti.

Re:Slashdot just "jumped the shark". (1)

TheSeventh (824276) | more than 2 years ago | (#39209199)

Well, I for one, know that you will be missed. Although I'm not sure what Wisconsin has to do with Ann Arbor, which is in a different state, I know that a lot of people will agree that only people in Wisconsin should have any say on what happens in AA.

IIRC, didn't I read something about Ann Arbor and Slashdot having some sort of relationship? Friends, FWB, Exes, or something like that?

Re:Slashdot just "jumped the shark". (1)

tompaulco (629533) | more than 2 years ago | (#39209337)

I, on the other hand, used to live in Racine County Wisconsin, and despite paying ridiculous property tax rates the school systems were crap. I paid 2% of my homes value every year in taxes, which is even higher than DuPage county, Illinois (1.67%), even though that county is often touted as having the highest property tax rates. Yest, the schools sucked. Standardized scores sucked, the bus system sucked, the teachers were paid less than national average. There was no money for band, sports or activities. The money was clearly all going into somebodies pocket.
I still think that people who didn't live anywhere near there are allowed to have a say. Personally, I think $45 million is way too high for a computer overhaul in a public school. That is $2700 per student in the district, and probably less than 1/3 of the students in the district will end up in a class in which they need to use a computer. There are districts that only spend $5,000 for the whole budget per student, not just on the computer allotment.

These are 50-pound 10-year-old boat anchors (1)

Barbara, not Barbie (721478) | more than 2 years ago | (#39208879)

You couldn't GIVE them away today. You would literally have to pay someone to come and dispose of them as eWaste.

We're not talking cutting edge - we're talking 40 gig hard drives, 128 meg of ram, 16" viewable area CRTs. Some of them are still only usb 1.

Would it be worth upgrading them? Not really - even if you did stuff 2 gig into them, it can only use 1 - and that old-style slow ram is getting expensive.

Re:These are 50-pound 10-year-old boat anchors (1)

tompaulco (629533) | more than 2 years ago | (#39209401)

What shame. Maybe they should have bought PCs instead. They may have run slow, but at least they would be able to work with Google Docs. Heck a 6 year old PC is still perfectly usable. I just upgraded a 9 year old computer last year. It still did everything I needed it to do, even ran games pretty fast. The only reason I upgraded was because it had developed a habit of blue screening, and hours spent trying to fix the problem only resulted in Microsoft telling me that my version of Windows which had been Genuine for the last 9 years was no longer Genuine.

Re:These are 50-pound 10-year-old boat anchors (1)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 2 years ago | (#39209881)

The same is true for most Macs - the one I am using right now is from 2006 and it has a Core 2 Duo and can easily handle things like Google Docs. It's getting a little long in the tooth in terms of the GPU, but for the bulk of the things I do with it it is absolutely fine.

These eMacs were budget (and out of date) machines even back then - they are using PPC G4 chips and CRT screens, even after the rest of the Mac line had gone first to G5 PPC and then to Intel. That doesn't mean all Macs of that era are quite so obsolete.

Although, even if they *had* bought PCs, there is still going to be a limitation to upgrading them unless you swap out the motherboard, and at that point you might as well buy a new machine.

$45 million? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39208891)

They are due for an upgrade if they are still using emac but they should be able to do it for 1/2 or 1/3 of that price.

Overbuying (2)

Phoenix666 (184391) | more than 2 years ago | (#39208935)

There are so many factors in the state of the education system, it's hard to pick any one of them as the keystone. A bajillion dollars is not enough to substitute for parents who don't participate in their kids' education. A bajillion dollars is not enough to correct a society who tells kids it's more important to be a football star than learn math. A bajillion dollars won't make a dent in a stodgy, horribly outdated pedagogical culture that is protected and perpetuated by entrenched interests (teacher's unions, colleges offering degrees in education, textbook publishers, testing companies, etc etc). A bajillion dollars won't improve the performance of obese kids too whacked out on high-fructose corn syrup, junk food, and ritalin to pay attention.

It is true that it is hard to teach a computer class without computers. It is not true that you cannot teach a computer class with old computers. It is not true that you cannot teach a computer class without expensive computers.

In the end putting outsized requests like this in sounds like the timeless bureaucratic game of, grow your budget with ridiculous requests to SAVE THE CHILDREN, then point out how big the budget is that you're now managing, and cry about how much more work it is to manage that large budget and how you can't possibly handle it without a 25% increase in the size of your staff and a 25% bump in your pay.

If /.'s minds can come up with an effective way to unwind that dynamic (and, no, crying 'small government' doesn't and hasn't worked because they just grow different parts of the government, not shrink the total), then it will have performed a greater boon for mankind and done more for its advancement than nearly any other achievement in human history.

Re:Overbuying (1)

tompaulco (629533) | more than 2 years ago | (#39209503)

It is not true that you cannot teach a computer class without expensive computers.
Agreed. My High School had about $12,000 worth of computers. My school district is about the same size as the one in question. Now granted, this was just the one school, so if you put the same amount of technology into all the public schools in my district, you are probably talking about close to $200,000. A factor of about 200 difference from the Ann Arbor proposal.

Normal operating procedure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39208967)

I worked for a college and when ordering things you need to order top of the line at the time because you will be stuck with it for years till you can get money to replace it. Also you need to make up things to prove you need it since everyone penny pinches regardless of how the economy is going. It's a dog eat dog world out there. Although if they teach a build a pc in high schools they could cheaply build windows systems, oh wait they are on macs, so scratch that...

Seriously!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39209009)

i have volunteered for a small inner city private school who's tech budget is nearly $0 more likely in the negative. All computer equipment is 4yr old plus, all wonderfully donated form wealthy private schools after they have run their 4yr + course with them. Yes we have eMacs. It's more about understanding what you have and using it as an aid to teachers and teaching. While here our kids learn and improve greatly compared state and national public school average, and are on par or better than the private independent schools. I'm not saying i wouldn't love to have new computers, i think the money is better spent on teachers and teaching.

AAPS Computers Are Old (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39209057)

I graduated from AAPS (Ann Arbor Public Schools) in 2008. Back then the computers could barely get on the Internet. AAPS spends a ton of money on all sorts of things, but gets the cheapest computers they can find.

Academy Program (2, Interesting)

g0bshiTe (596213) | more than 2 years ago | (#39209087)

My daughters in the Academy Program, they don't have eMacs, or the latest iGadget her school, they have 4 year old computer systems that run whatever they need perfectly well. The do have the next to latest edition of Office, but the school allows projects to be turned in that were done in Open Source formats as well, and this is for one of the top rated public schools within 100 miles.

This seems more like someone that is anti-apple and just wants the latest and greatest gadgets to play with. I wouldn't be surprised at all to find that some of that software found it's way onto the teachers' home computers as well, "we have to know how to use it to teach the children".

Re:Academy Program (1)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 2 years ago | (#39209945)

Well, the eMac is a PowerPC G4 machine with a CRT screen. This isn't just "we want faster computers! wah!" it's "we really need to get computers with Intel CPUs in them". The 2006 eMac was obsolete when it was new.

Whether they buy a fleet of new Windows boxes or new Macs, the fact of the matter is they *do* need to get something newer than what they have if they're going to be able to use them effectively with things like Google Docs and CS5/CS6 etc.

Re:Academy Program (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39209947)

As noted above, eMacs are hardly "the latest iGadget" and even the newest is far older than 4 years at this point.

I live in Ann Arbor... (5, Informative)

macwhizkid (864124) | more than 2 years ago | (#39209145)

I grew up and now work in Ann Arbor. Posting as anonymous, for obvious reasons. First, some background. Ann Arbor Public Schools has become a reference model for how not to run a school district. The district routinely has nationwide searches at great expense to find a new superintendent, simply because (1) the average tenure of a superintendent in Michigan is less than two years and (2) none of them are stupid enough to come to a district as dysfunctional as Ann Arbor.

The current superintendent came from a rural district in Pennsylvania, and was old enough to actually retire from her old district to take the job here. But hell, at least she was available.

The tech crisis is at least real. Those really are eMacs being used in the classrooms... yes, the eMac that Apple stopped making in 2005. The district has a budget deficit of $14 million, due to a perfect storm of decreasing state funding (Michigan is not exactly a bastion of tax revenue), decreasing local property values, and fewer students (the #1 local tax payer and #2 employer, Pfizer, pulled out in 2007).

The odd thing is, the district is, by many measures, not bad. But that's due primarily to high student achievement due to the relatively educated population (over 70% of Ann Arbor residents have a 4-year degree or more). Meanwhile, we have high schools that are too big, middle schools that are a disaster, and elementary schools that are actually OK (but not great). On a side note, did I mention that my father teaches for AAPS, and I went to private school? Yeah...

Re:I live in Ann Arbor... (2)

macwhizkid (864124) | more than 2 years ago | (#39209175)

haha, oops... So... about that "anonymous" part... guess it's time to change my /. username again...

Re:I live in Ann Arbor... (1)

Nimey (114278) | more than 2 years ago | (#39209595)

Why, are you ashamed of what you posted? Is it somewhat less than the whole truth?

Obvious teabagger troll is obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39209157)

"I don't want my taxes raised to pay for more schools, and OH LOOK, they're asking for new hardware for a JOURNALISM class!!! Those 10-year old eMacs are good enough!

4,500 PCs for 16,000 students? (1)

msobkow (48369) | more than 2 years ago | (#39209405)

At $1000 per machine, that would be 4,500 PCs in their budget. One machine for every 4 students.

At $500 per machine, a reasonable price for such a bulk-volume purchase, that would be 9,000 PCs, or one machine for every 2 students.

Methinks that kind of money would be better spent on hiring better TEACHERS than buying equipment.

Re:4,500 PCs for 16,000 students? (1)

bwohlgemuth (182897) | more than 2 years ago | (#39209587)

Schools don't buy at $500/machine prices. They buy at $1k+/machine prices....I've seen their "discounts" and it's usually pretty appalling. I was invited by my local school corporation to buy at their "discounted" rate which was (for a similarly specced machine) 40% above sale prices.

But they spun it as a 50% off of "LIST" price....

I have seen school districts want to build their own fiber infrastructure, build 100MBit microwave feeds between buildings, and demand Cisco TelePresence in every school. And when you look at port utilization, it's around 1%avg/3%peak. I also doubt that the current IT budget hasn't been replacing computers for the past five years as they breakdown, etc.

This is a bond issue, not a budget issue. They want to specially finance $45 million into a district of 17k kids to "build for the future".

1st world problems (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39209601)

where I come from some students are lucky if they have a roof over their heads when in class.....

Eating the seed corn (2)

Wilf_Brim (919371) | more than 2 years ago | (#39209681)

I don't find it unreasonable that computers made in 2006 (which were underpowered at the time) are due for a replacement. There are reasons (for and against) to pay the Apple tax to get their hardware. That is completely secondary to the main issue.The problem I have is using bond money for this expense. The real issue here is the horrible mismangement that led to the need for a bond issue to replace depreciable assets. Bonds are supposed to be for capital improvements. This means new schools, major rennovations or upgrades. Bond money is not supposed to be used for rountine repair, replacment, or basic expsenses. Building a new wing for [whatever reader thinks is worthwhile] is good. Paying for teacher salaries with bonds is bad. I consider this to be the same as using bond money to buy new books. Book are a depreciable short term asset that need frequent replacement: they should not be considered a capital expense. Likewise computers.

My kid is enrolled in AAPS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39209725)

I have a child enrolled at an elementary school in the AAPS school district. Being an IT enthusiast myself, I am all for having better machines. (Quite in fact, I helped to INSTALL their eMacs about 4 or 5 years ago). Having machines as old as eMacs that were denounced by Apple themselves, I believe this is a worth investment of my tax dollars, AND would only benefit my child, and every other child, in the school district.

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