Porter County Commissioner Nancy Adams has suggested giving laptop computers to each of the county's high school seniors. That part of her idea holds promise.
There are 10,000 high school students in Porter County, so issuing the computers and, where necessary, providing low-cost Internet access could cost $5 million.
This wouldn't be a one-time commitment, though; the promise would need to be kept for each incoming class of freshmen.
Adams said she has talked about this idea with local educators, local college and universities, and Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett.
"We educators see that as a wonderful opportunity to finance advancement in education," Valparaiso Community Schools Superintendent Michael Berta said.
Some school districts already issue laptops to high school students, and there is talk of issuing them to even younger students.
Computers are now part of everyday life in the workplace, and computer skills are essential in modern society. Computers facilitate learning, too, helping students do research online and prepare reports that can be emailed to the teacher — developing writing, word processing and other computer literacy skills at the same time. Computers also allow students to put together multimedia presentations.
This is the direction education is headed.
"I think it would be a wonderful thing if the county could come up with a computer for every high school student in the county," Portage Township Schools Superintendent E. Ric Frataccia said.
While that cause might be good, the funding source is an issue. Adams proposes using interest on the county's nest egg — the proceeds from the sale of Porter hospital — to pay for this.
In Indiana, there are many layers of government, each with its own responsibilities. Education is generally under the purview of school districts, not county government.
It's not as if Porter County has no other use for this money, either. There are public safety concerns, including staffing at the jail and the county's high substance abuse rates, along with drainage and infrastructure issues.
Issuing laptops to high school students is a good idea, but it should be up to the school systems to pay for this equipment. Education is not a function of county government.