Laptops, Chromebooks, and Other Technology Fees
At the beginning of the school year, the Iowa Department of Education (Department) is flooded with calls regarding school fees and tuition. Many of those calls relate to the fees or other charges for students for schools who have a 1:1 laptop. In March 2011, the Department issued a declaratory Order to help schools ascertain whether or not schools could pay certain computer lease expenditures from the General Fund and/or Physical Plant and Equipment Levey (PPEL). In that order, the Department addressed a number of questions that relate to the costs of these initiatives.
Here are the most common questions we receive that were addressed in that order:
- May a district Charge a Technology Fee?
Answer: Yes, a technology fee is allowable as a textbook rental fee under Iowa Code section 301.1.
- Are there limits on the fees the district can charge?
Answer: The fees must be based on the actual costs. If a technology fee is charged to a student, the district is using the technology as a textbook substitute.
- Is the district required to honor a fee waiver?
Answer: Yes, if a technology fee is required the district must honor fee waivers.
- Can the district charge a deposit?
Answer: If a deposit is charged to students, it must be a reasonable amount. The district should hold the deposit in an account and not use it for any expenses, repair, or maintenance.
- Do deposits have to be returned?
Answer: After the district receives the technology back from the student, the deposit would be returned to the parents, unless there is damage to the unit that needs to be repaired. Refundable deposits are not subject to waiver provisions.
- What if the Deposit is non-refundable?
Answer: A nonrefundable deposit is subject to waiver provisions. Districts should have clear policies approved by their boards on appropriate use, responsibilities, deposits, fees, fines, damages, or theft of technology. It may be a good idea to have students sign a technology use agreement that outlines these policies clearly to the student.
Make sure to work with your Board attorney when reviewing your policies on 1:1 Laptops. For more information on the use of PPEL for technology, here is the full Declaratory Order.