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Kansas City, Liberty school district students getting taxpayer-provided computers

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KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

The Kansas City School District Board of Trustees has agreed to give every student a laptop or tablet computer in the upcoming school year.

Providing the district's 17,000 students with computers and tablets will cost the district $7 million annually.

This comes as the Liberty School District plans to provide MacBook Air laptops to its high school students. The move will cost about $900,000 and provide 3,200 computers.

The Los Angeles School District announced earlier this month it is buying iPads for all its students. The initial cost is $30 million.

The Kansas City Public Schools system hasn't said how much its effort will cost. School board president Airick West told KCTV5's Edwin Watson that the district will redirect current resources to cover the costs.

Districts who have issued students their own tablets or computers say it boosts technology in the classroom.

West said the initiative will promote academic achievement and tie technology to the district's curriculum. He said many district families have little or no access to technology. He said to be successful in college and in careers that students need to have access and familiarity with the use of electronics.

The computers and tablets will have district software on them and allow the district to phase out textbooks.

Some have questioned whether students will have the wireless or internet provider service at home to be able to use the electronics. Questions have also been raised about ensuring students and their families are responsible for the electronics.

The teachers union has a number of questions, both big and small. For example, the desks are slanted and will the tablets and computers readily topple off and onto the floor.

Andrea Flinders, head of the Kansas City teachers union, said the district hasn't put enough thought into the purchase and implementation especially with classes starting next month and no purchases having been made.

"It did feel sprung on me and I think it would have felt sprung on the teachers," Flinders said.

Flinders emphasized that the union isn't against technology, but says the district must have a solid plan for this new effort.

"I have seen them dump programs on teachers without a lot of thought, without a lot of planning and then when it doesn't work, they want to blame the teachers. And that's one thing I don't want to happen with this," Flinders said.

As a result of the union's concerns, the district will no longer pursue putting a laptop or computer into every student's hands at the start of the school year. Instead, the district will look at rolling the program out at a small number of select schools initially.

District officials note that the state in 2015 will no longer do state testing via paper and pencil. Instead, the state will use computers for state testing.

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