Oregon has signed a deal with Google that enables any school district to provide Google Apps for Education [faq] for free to its students and teachers. This includes Google Gmail, Calendar, Contacts, Sites and Pages, Talk, Video, Groups, Docs, and Postini email management. Google Apps for Ed lets the school district use its own domain names rather than Google.com.
Google Apps for Ed is alwaysfree to schools, so the effect of this contract will depend on whether these are simply services students can use, or if students are actually expected to do their work with Google Docs et al. If the latter, this would be a step toward establishing Google (and its cloudy ways) as the educational default, the way Apple’s educational program inserted Macishness into the brains of our young. One Google Account Per Child!
It will be interesting also, of course, if it decreases the purchase of other software; Google says it will save Oregon $1.5M, but doesn’t say how)
You can read the contract here. The system defaults to ad-free services, although it allows District Administrators to opt to turn ads on. Why they would is confusing since the contract stipulates that all the revenues would “be retained by Google and will not be subject to revenue sharing.” It prevents Google from using personal info “for any purpose related to serving Ads” unless the ads are turned on. It is all provided for free for the term of the contract, although if Google adds services or a “professional version,” a fee for them may be negotiated.