South Dakota’s schools will get free computers from the state–but only after they sign a waiver agreeing they still will spend the money they already budgeted for technology.

The state has sent a letter to that effect to superintendents. The first schools to return the waivers will get their computers first, said Otto Doll, commissioner of the Bureau of Information and Telecommunications.

The waiver comes after the governor’s office learned some districts might want to divert money budgeted for technology to other areas because the state is giving them the Gateway and Apple computers, Doll said.

Gov. Bill Janklow announced the $8.17 million purchase of 16,040 computers for schools on July 17. The program was meant to add computers for students, not replace a district’s local purchases, he said.

Doll said the state is not asking districts to prove they have spent their budgeted technology money. But community members will know if districts are doing what they pledged.

“I think we’ll find out,” he said.

The computers will be distributed according to enrollment: one new computer for about every eight students.

Currently there are about 40,000 computers in South Dakota’s public schools. That’s enough for 31.5 percent of the students to be online at the same time. The additional 16,040 computers means 44 percent can be online simultaneously, state officials said.

Gateway won the state contract for 15,000 E-1600 SE Windows-based personal computers at a price of $510 apiece. Schools will be able to purchase additional computers from Gateway at the same $510 price, Janklow said.

For the schools that intend to remain on an Apple system, the governor purchased 1,040 of the Apple iMac 400 Indigo units at $474 apiece.

Funding comes from unspent money remaining from the state aid to schools to program, state officials said.

Wakonda is scheduled to receive 25 computers, and Superintendent Ron Flynn said he’ll find spots for the new equipment. But he said the deal makes it look as if the schools can’t manage their own technology.

“It’s as if the state knows better than we do what we need,” Flynn told the Argus Leader.