Questions Arise Over Poway School's Tablet Plan

Tierra Bonita Elementary School's Tablet Program Questioned By Local ACLU

A Poway school's ambitious plan to get more technology into the classroom is meeting some major opposition.

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At Tierra Bonita Elementary School, some parents are starting to save for a major expense. Word of that expense came in a survey recently sent to parents of students entering 4th and 5th grade next school year.

As part of a tablet program, parents are being given the option of using their own Apple iPad or Android tablet, purchasing a discounted $379 tablet or taking part in a rent-to-own program. If parents cannot afford the available options, the student can borrow an iPad.

However, if more than 10 percent of students need to borrow an iPad, the tablet program will not happen.

"What is the next message to parents? You better pay up or we can't have this program," said David Loy, legal director for the San Diego chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Loy said parents approached his group feeling pressured to pay. It is a pressure he said may be illegal since the state constitution bans schools from charging parents fees as part of public education, even if some students can borrow the items.

"This is tantamount to sending a bill, under the guise of a survey. According to the California Constitution, free public schools mean free public schools," said Loy.

Sources told 10News parents have overwhelmingly supported the program, which likely will be implemented.

"Technology is something our children won't escape. We want to try to make this happen for the kids," said Brian Boenninghausen, a father whose student is entering the 4th grade.

"I don't see, in the state of California, a way around parents engaging and putting money where their mouth is. If we want a great education for our kids, we're going to have to pay for it," said Rachel Allums, PTA president at Tierra Bonita Elementary School.

The ACLU has sent a warning letter to the Poway Unified School District amid a brewing debate pitting a longstanding law against high-tech education.

In a statement, the Poway Unified School District said:

"Our district has worked closely with Tierra Bonita staff and the Tierra Bonita Educational Foundation … seeking to implement a one-to-one technology program aimed at increasing learning opportunities for children."

A meeting between the school district and the ACLU will take place next week to address the concerns.

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