The Fort Bend ISD School Board recently announced plans spend an appalling $18 million to give 2nd through 8th graders iPads in lieu of traditional textbooks. Do they expect taxpayers to ignore their role as lead plaintiff in one of the school finance lawsuits?

Similar to the New Braunfels ISD iPad proposal, the audacious plan to replace traditional textbooks with iPads is wasteful to say the least. But unlike NBISD that would initially implement iPads at only one grade level, Fort Bend ISD is giving iPads to seven grade levels all at once!

What is Fort Bend’s iPad program going to cost? A whopping $18 million. Over the next two and a half years, the plan will put iPads in the hands of the district’s second through eighth graders.

The aim of the program is to improve science test scores, which have been less than satisfactory across the entire district. But given the extremely limited selection of textbooks currently available on the iPad, parents and taxpayers alike should be asking exactly how these devices are going to be a contribution, not a detriment, to the education process.

Like many school districts in Texas, Fort Bend ISD has had its share of budget problems over the last two years. Getting rid of teachers has served as the district’s main solution to budget shortfalls.

In April 2010, the district announced the elimination of 470 teaching positions. About half of these teachers were eventually hired back.

In 2011, FBISD faced budget issues again and, in turn, eliminated 483 positions. At the time of the announcement, Superintendent Jim Tenney warned teachers that the probability of being hired back was less likely than in 2010. Another official with the district stated, “we don’t anticipate being able to bring back the teachers we’ve lost in previous years.”

It must have taken a lot of nerve for the FBISD board to pass this iPad plan especially since the district filed one of the primary lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the state’s school finance system as the lead plaintiff!

There is no doubt e-readers will have a place in the classroom. But buying cutting-edge gadgets without a clear classroom connection and a proven track record is a recipe for waste.

Buying iPads for 2nd through 8th graders… $18 million. Spending that money on a gadget after cutting nearly 1,000 teaching positions… ridiculous.