That sounds a little bit like the old Fraternity of Man song, "Don't Bogart that Joint", doesn't it? Different idea, but a catchy title, nonetheless. Easy Rider soundtracks aside, though, I was asked yesterday if we were planning to buy out the lease on all of the equipment we recently installed at the end of the three years. Many leases offer this option, in which you can purchase the equipment at the end of the lease term for some nominal cost.
While it may seem like a fine idea to buy the used equipment and deploy it in a new setting (or leave it in the current setting for a few lease-payment-free years), there are some major problems with this approach. Fortunately, some lease programs (like the one we're using) don't even allow lease purchase; the equipment is hauled away at the end of three years and, in theory, the district opens a new lease for replacement equipment. This ensures that lifecycle-funded, up-to-date equipment is always in place and forces computer expenditures to be a line item in every year's budget.
Lease buy outs, on the other hand, encourage districts to accumulate aging hardware in need of eventual disposal and to keep out-of-date equipment for the short-term gain of a few years without lease payments. In an ideal world, districts would go ahead and buy out the leases on appropriate items and then surplus the computers and peripherals to students and staff who could use them. At the same time, they would start new leases and obtain replacement equipment. In the less-than-ideal world in which we live, however, the likelihood of the aforementioned scenario is fairly slim. What easier way to cut budgets than simply not start those new leases and "get by" with older machines for a year (or two, or three...).
Unfortunately, once a line item is gone, restoring the funding a year or more down the road can be incredibly difficult. The moral of the story? Don't buy out that lease and don't lose that line item. Technology must be funded on an ongoing basis to keep maintenance costs in check and provide students with appropriate platforms for learning.