updated 04:45 pm EDT, Fri April 6, 2007
iPods for Michigan Kids
Democrats are proposing that iPods and other MP3 players be given to every child in Michigan, according to an editorial in the Detroit Free Press. The party's state house speaker Andy Dillon suggested the idea as part of a larger spending bill, suggesting that it would help students learn. The idea has already triggered a major controversy in the state for the cost it would inflict on the already ailing government, taking $38 million away from Michigan's budget when the territory faces a $600 million deficit this year and an even greater $2.1 billion gap in 2008.
Educators in particular saw the proposal as an excess at a time when far more basic issues were at hand. "My members are telling me they have much more pressing things they're worried about, like whether they're going to be able to make payroll in May," Michigan Association of School Boards spokesman Don Wotruba said.
The choice also drew expected flak from Republicans and their supporters, including an editorial in the Detroit News which accused the Democrats of wasting money on luxuries for youth while putting increasing strain on the parents that support them through tax hikes offered at the same time a the iPod plan.
"We wonder how financially strained Michigan residents will feel about paying higher taxes to buy someone else's kid an iPod," the anonymous author said. State officials hope to have the budget signed by June 1st to take effect when the fiscal year starts in October.
iPods have been increasingly used as a help in many American college and university campuses. Duke University's Digital Initiative regularly hands out iPods to faculty and students for class-related podcasts and other material, while Apple itself has partnered with several schools in North America for its iTunes U feature that hosts school-specific content on the iTunes Store. A comprehensive study of the effect of portable music players and podcasts on learning, however, hasn't yet surfaced.