CAPE ELIZABETH — Cuts in state aid will leave the School Department $57,000 short of being able to participate in the state’s high school laptop computer program if that program is approved by the Legislature.

If the latest phase of the laptop program is set in motion by the state, it would bring computers to every participating high school’s students. Schools have the option of opting out of the program, but in doing so would lose teacher laptops that were part of the first phase of the program. Replacing those computers would cost the town about $60,000.

The first year of the program would cost Cape Elizabeth $133,000 based on student population. The School Department would garner about $75,000 in state funding based on the program’s funding formula, but because of the number of cuts in the proposed school budget after the state announced a $500,000 drop in subsidy, Superintendent Alan Hawkins on Tuesday told the School Board the town simply wouldn’t be able to afford the program.

In a survey of superintendents about their ability to participate if the program goes forward, Hawkins said he told the education commissioner that Cape Elizabeth is “still investigating.”

Hawkins said that after submitting that response, he has received a handful of phone calls suggesting outside funding, including available grants. Hawkins said he will act on those suggestions when appropriate.

Hawkins said he remains wary of state decisions and announcements, because new information seems to come in every week. When asked by School Board member Kathy Ray if he has “any faith that this information won’t change,” Hawkins could only reply that “this is today. I don’t know where we’ll be.”

Hawkins said state financial forecasters have projected further state shortfalls for this year totalling up to $300 million, and that a second curtailment is currently expected. He said the state has suggested that fiscal 2009 funds will be maintained through stimulus funds designated for fiscal 2011, but added that this shift could cause trouble in the long run, especially as 2011 budgeting approaches.

Hawkins said he hopes to have more information on the computer program as well as further facts on additional stimulus funds and grants later this month.

Sarah Trent can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 108 or [email protected].


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