Vitti calls for more laptops in non-Title 1 schools

Duval school board member concerned about funding for superintendent's plan

By Elizabeth Campbell - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - In order to keep up with technology, Duval County Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti has proposed borrowing about $52 million to buy more laptops for the district's schools.

Vitti's plan calls for non-Title 1 schools to have the same student-laptop ratio as Title-1 schools, which have high numbers of children from low-income families.

The district's Title-1 schools current have more technology, according to Vitti. 

VIEW: Vitti's laptop proposal

"I would say having technology in classrooms is good," said Thomas Spencer, a parent supportive of laptops in schools.

Not only is Vitti asking for more laptops, but also supporting technology, such as monitors and laptop lockers. 

"Technology is essential to allow our students to learn at higher levels, be more engaged and be more comfortable and confident with the tools that they're going to need, really in any workplace," Vitti said.

Ideally, Vitti said, he wants the student laptop ratio for all schools to be 1-to-1, meaning one laptop for each student.

Currently, the student-to-computer ratios for non-Title 1 Duval County schools is 2.3-to-1 in elementary schools, 1-to-1 in middle schools and 2.5-to-1 in high schools. 

The ratios for Title 1 schools in the district is 1.5-to-1 in elementary schools, 1-to-1 in middle schools and 2-to-1 in high schools. 

Vitti's proposal, which includes 50,000 laptops and interactive monitors, would cost about $52 million. He said he thinks the best funding option is a Qualified Zone Academy Bond (QZAB), which would be the third bond of that type for the district in recent years. 

School board member Scott Shine said he is encouraged by the proposal, but concerned about the funding. 

"Some of the items, it's a 15-year loan. Some of the items, essentially, would not last 15 years. They don't last five years. Some would last 20, so that mechanism of payment is appropriate for those improvements that would last 20 years but not for the five-year improvements," Shine said. 

Vitti said Shine has legitimate concerns, but he feels the QZAB is the best option.

Of course, Vitti said, he is open to discussing other options, but the options are limited because of  budgetary concerns.

"If we don't use this option, we're going to have to cut our traditional budget to generate revenue to provide the refresh at the scale we're currently at to go into non-Title I schools. That's going to be hard to do in an already tight budget," Vitti said.

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