Governor wants device to monitor students

June 18, 2010 3:53:49 PM PDT
The ABC11 Eyewitness News I-Team has learned a new high-tech gadget for the classroom could be on hand at local schools.The governor wants to equip every grade school teacher in North Carolina with a hand held device to monitor students' progress.

However, it is the price tag for the devices --$39 million-- that is raising eyebrows.

Teachers say it would be money well spent, but others say it could be better spent elsewhere.

"I notice there's a pattern by reviewing these that in every word the child missed the 'uh' sound," elementary school teacher Beth Waddell said. "It puts my students in groups, so I know exactly how to draw up my instruction in the classroom."

Waddell says the device would help her, help her students and save her time.

"The quicker I can get this done, the quicker I can get started on my instructional time," Waddell said.

But Joe Coletti, with the conservative group John Locke Foundation, questions the timing of the push for the new tool.

"It's not about the technology itself it's about, is this the best use of money when we don't have a lot of money to spend," Coletti said.

In fact, Governor Bev Perdue, who's pushing for the technology, had to take money away from other programs to cover the almost $40 million price tag. And it comes in the shadow of massive teacher layoffs this past year.

"Why take money that could have gone to hire these people and put them in the classroom, and use it for something else," Coletti said.

But advocates say because the gadgets make teaching more efficient and taylors education to students' specific need, they are well worth the expense.

"If you can catch them early, it's just right on," 3rd grade teacher Suzanne Taylor said. "You've saved the child, before they fall."

There is also another concern about the device that's not sitting well with some --a company called Wireless Generation is helping facilitate the new technology and the chairman of the board of that company is former North Carolina Governor Jim Hunt.

There have been no allegations of favoritism, but for some they say it's still too close to home.

In the meantime, the question remains will lawmakers give more weight to the potential benefits or the real cost as they wrestle with how to spend taxpayers' money in this year's budget.

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