Most parents who responded to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools online budget survey are willing to send their kids' digital devices to school and want to lease a computer for home and school use, according to a presentation to the school board.
The survey, which got about 12,100 responses, is intended as a starting point for budget talks and a means of getting the public engaged. Like most numbers, the results pose as many questions as they answer.
|One Laptop Per Child project|
Eighty-three percent of responders said they want the county to invest more in school technology, the most popular option for increasing revenue. All the other options had to do with bringing in money from other sources, such as ad revenue, cell tower leases and rental fees, so it's not clear why a "more county spending" item was on that list.
Seventy percent of parents said their child has "a mobile device, such as an iPhone or an iPad," and 72 percent said they support letting their kids bring such devices for classroom use. Two-thirds said they'd be willing to pay $30 to $50 a year to lease a computer from CMS for classroom and home use.
And 98 percent said they already have home Internet access.
So what does this all mean, beyond the fact that people were clicking "yes" to a lot of technology questions? Do people really want more spending for classroom technology and continuing use of "bring your own technology" and school laptops for kids to lease? And they want all this even though they're already wired at home?
The first question, of course, is who took the online survey. Two weeks ago board member Tom Tate pressed Chief Communication Officer Kathryn Block on how the district is reaching people who don't have Internet access. There were some stifled chuckles when she replied that community partners were getting the word out ... through web sites and social media.
Board member Thelma Byers-Bailey brought up the issue again Tuesday. "That's 98 percent of people who have Internet who say they have Internet," she said.
Block said some people used school and public library computers to respond to the survey, but the high degree of Internet access in homes is "consistent with what we see" from other sources.
Project LIFT Zone Superintendent Denise Watts had left the meeting before that presentation. I was curious to hear her take on that, given that the public-private partnership is channeling significant private money into giving low-income families and students digital access. Is it true that most already have it?
Watts says there's no way 98 percent of CMS families have Internet at home, especially in impoverished neighborhoods. "I would almost bet my next paycheck on that. I would love to see the data source." She agrees that many students have smartphones, but "that's not a work/education device."
Superintendent Heath Morrison told the board that in addition to the online survey, members of the public have had a chance to speak in person at three town hall meetings on budget planning (two more are coming up in April). The board will hold a two-hour budget work session next week, and Morrison will present his 2014-15 budget proposal April 8.
Here's the one prediction I feel confident making: Technology will be a big item in that budget.