Detroit Schools Spend $49 Million Fed Stimulus on Computers

Published February 1, 2011

The Detroit Public Schools system is spending $49 million of a total $530 million in federal funding on school laptops and computers. Even before the DPS’s official announcement, however, Detroit journalists reported a teacher had attempted to pawn a netbook the district purchased as part of the program.

On January 4, 2011, DPS announced it is using funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to purchase 5,000 desktop computers; 40,000 new laptop computers; and 4,300 printer/scanners for Detroit students in grades six through 12; 500 desktop computers for 138 early childhood classrooms; and 5,000 laptops for DPS faculty members.

Kisha Verdusco, a DPS spokeswoman, told the Detroit Free Press the district will deliver all the computers by the end of the 2010-2011 school year. All told, the program will purchase more than 50,000 pieces of equipment.

“Improving Detroit Public Schools will require much more than just handing out laptops to students,” said Michael Van Beek, education policy director for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a Michigan-based research and education institution. “The city needs to follow the model of New Orleans and create more educational opportunities for kids and a robust marketplace for successful schools to thrive. This $49 million does nothing to achieve that end.”

Teacher Pawns Netbook
This past December the Detroit News reported DPS teacher Karen Drysdale-Oriucci was suspended with pay after allegedly attempting to pawn a netbook purchased by the district with federal stimulus money. A disciplinary hearing is pending for Drysdale-Oriucci after Detroit pawn shop American Jewelry and Loan refused to pay her, confiscated her computer, and contacted DPS.

Drysdale-Oriucci received her netbook on Dec. 17, 2010, and reportedly attempted to pawn it the same day.

“For decades, Detroit Public Schools have been a grab bag for adults,” said Kyle Olson, founder and chief executive officer of the Education Action Group Foundation, a Michigan-based nonpartisan, nonprofit, education reform organization. Olson cited “school board members chauffeured-around in limousines, gross administrative mismanagement, and little if any accountability for teachers” as several additional, well-documented examples of DPS negligence.

“The assembly-line system that has been in place for decades has finally reaped its results: Students who can’t read their diplomas, billions squandered, and a drain on the future of Detroit and Michigan,” he continued.

“It won’t change until adults put their interests secondary to children,” Olson concluded.

Bruce Edward Walker
([email protected]) is managing editor of Infotech & Telecom News.