I am a school board director and I regularly meet with other school board directors from all over my state and annually I meet with them from all over the country. I can tell you I have a pretty good picture of the budgeting process and the offerings that go on on with the majority of schools in the country. Of course there are exceptions to everything.
Some schools I am sure have funded these photography programs early on but to get into it from scratch I think is too expensive now....at least here in VT or other similarly funded schools. I am sure the Beverly Hills, CA public school probably is better funded then mine or my wife's.
Forcing students to buy their own laptops? Yikes! Not sure where you pulled that from but its a tiny minority. That would never pass in my state and I can assure you it wouldn't pass in the majority of other states and towns.
Film photography doesn't require that much equipment and its maintenance is FAR cheaper than computers. Your just talking about a dark room, a few bins of chemicals and other odds and ends for a minimal set up. The equipment also isn't obsolete in three years like a computer. Film can be expensive though....
^ That's what I'm saying. I can imagine trying to be the teacher or administrator and film seems like a more practical approach.
Film cameras and lenses are cheap and they all work basically the same. Kids don't have to spend 600 to 1000 dollars on a camera kit like a t4i with 18-55. You don't have to worry about kids setting their cameras to Japanese accidentally. There aren't a million different AF settings, in camera effects, wifi, touch screens, and all that other stuff that would get in the way of learning exposure, composition, and perspective.
A school can afford to have 30 Canon AE-1's and a basket of lenses. Kodak Tri-X has a generic which is really very affordable. Arista Premium 400; $2.89 per roll of 36.
Plus, when the kids go around to take photos they are carrying a camera no one else has. They don't have a plastic Rebel with at kit lens and bright red & Black camera strap; they have something that tells the world they know more than how to use the auto mode. I think it is probably empowering to them to feel unique and gives them a boost to be creative and artistic.