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Mississippi Gets Financing for Computer Plan

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Gov. Raymond Mabus of Mississippi last week announced a cooperative venture between the state and two private foundations to place a computer laboratory in all of the state's elementary schools.

At a press conference in Jackson, Mr. Mabus said he had reached an agreement with the Riordan Foundation, a Los Angeles-based philanthropy headed by the lawyer Richard J. Riordan, and the rord Foundation of New York, to fund the four-year, $13-million effort.

Kevin Vandenbroek, a spokesman for Mr. Mabus, said the Governor and Mr. Riordan discovered their "mutual interest in education" during a recent visit by Mr. Mabus to California to promote economic development in Mississippi.

He said the joint venture will provide a "pool of money" that the state's more than 500 elementary schools will be encouraged to tap in order to acquire "Writing to Read" laboratories for students in kindergarten and the 1st grade.

The laboratories are centered around the popular software program developed by the education researcher John Henry Martin and marketed exclusively by the International Business Machines Corporation.

The Mississippi effort, which has been dubbed Literacy 2000, is the latest in a recent series of initiatives undertaken by states, including Maryland and West Virginia, to increase the number of computers in precollegiate classrooms.

Mr. Vandenbroek said the Mississippi program differs in that the computers will be used specifically to improve basic literacy skills.

If the effort is successful, it could constitute the largest single application of "Writing to Read" in the nation. The program is now in use in approximately 5,000 schools and school districts across the country, according to Greg Thompson, a spokesman for i.b.m. Educational Systems in Atlanta.

Under the terms of the Mississippi agreement, the two foundations pledged $1.5 million to begin the project and promised to raise an additional $5.5 million over the next four years.

Mr. Vandenbroek said the Governor is confident that lawmakers will approve the state's $6 million contribution to the project. The chairmen of the House and Senate education and finance committees joined Mr. Mabus at the press conference.--pw

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