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Published in Print: March 20, 2002, as Houston to Buy Laptop Computers For Every Teacher

Houston to Buy Laptop Computers For Every Teacher

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Houston teachers soon will be getting their own laptop computers from Compaq Computer Corp., a hometown vendor.

The Houston school district will purchase some 15,000 Compaq laptops in an exclusive three-year deal that also includes maintenance and technology support. About $7 million of the $12 million cost will be covered by a grant from the state's Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund, which is made up of taxes collected from phone companies.

The district will cover the rest of the purchase with its own money. At the end of three years, teachers will be able to keep the laptops by paying what officials said would be a nominal amount, as yet undetermined.

Superintendent Kaye Stripling of the 208,000-student district announced the deal this month during a "state of the schools" speech.

"This is the beginning of a revolution in teaching in [Houston]," she declared during the March 6 speech. "The key is greater access to better information about how to teach in today's world."

Multiyear Contracts

Compaq said the contract with the Houston district goes beyond the laptops to include other information-technology hardware.

The three-year deal ultimately "could be worth over $120 million," Jim Weynand, Compaq's vice president for government and education, said in a statement.

Compaq may not be a hometown vendor for much longer. The Hewlett-Packard Co. has proposed a $22 billion takeover of Compaq that has led to a major shareholder battle within the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company. Both companies' shareholders are scheduled to vote on the proposed merger this week.

Compaq executives say the proposed merger has not slowed Compaq's momentum in signing exclusive, multiyear contracts with schools and colleges.

"Nearly every major education contract we've signed recently calls for a multiyear commitment," said Jim Milton, a senior vice president and general manager for North America.

Besides the Houston deal, Compaq announced early this month that five New Jersey districts—Newark, Elizabeth, Jersey City, Cherry Hill, and Dover—joined together in a contract through the state to buy some 10,000 desktop computers, 1,000 laptops, and other technology in a deal worth $12 million.

Some critics have assailed the exclusive deals as inappropriate for schools, particularly when they extend to allowing students and families to purchase computers through the district's vendor. The 160,000-student Hillsborough County, Fla., district, for example, agreed to such a deal last spring. ("School Computer Deal Includes Families," May 2, 2001.)

Vol. 21, Issue 27, Page 5

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