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Clinton Pushes School-Technology Campaign

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Washington

President Clinton last week announced the first round of grants under a new school-technology program and met with the chief executives of influential media and technology companies--moves that continued laying the groundwork for a White House initiative promoting the use of technology in the classroom.

On Capitol Hill, meanwhile, the House committees on Educational and Economic Opportunities and Science, Space, and Technology held a joint hearing, where educators, scientists, and technology executives discussed the promise technology holds for education reform and the barriers to equipping schools with high-tech tools.

"I think this has been a pretty amazing week for technology in education," said Linda G. Roberts, the technology adviser to Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley.

"This has been a banner week," said Ms. Roberts, who attended both the White House and congressional meetings.

At a White House news conference, Mr. Clinton announced the first round of grants under the Department of Education's Challenge Grants for Technology in Education program. The five-year grants are designed to foster partnerships between public schools and the private sector to help equip classrooms with computers and other technological teaching aids.

The $9.5 million appropriated for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 will provide five-year grants to 19 projects; that amount will be matched by $70 million in local money and $300 million of private funding over the same period.

The Clinton administration requested $70 million for the program in fiscal 1996, which began Oct. 1, but the appropriations bill approved by the House would provide only $25 million, and the companion Senate bill includes just $15 million.

Ongoing Campaign

President Clinton has recently made several other high-profile statements in support of educational technology, including an announcement late last month of a public-private partnership that aims to provide Internet connections to California schools. (See Education Week, Sept. 27, 1995.)

But the president is expected to make an even more sweeping commitment in coming weeks, when the White House intends to release a national plan for equipping schools for the digital age.

Education Department officials have been conducting regional meetings and focus groups for over a year to help in crafting the plan for making U.S. students "technology literate." The agency also held a four-month-long on-line forum.

A draft of the document has been circulating for weeks, and was initially expected to be made public this month. But because Mr. Clinton plans to personally unveil the document, administration officials say, its release has been delayed a number of times by a cautious White House staff.

The plan reportedly has been frequently revised since the initial draft was completed, but it is likely that some of its central recommendations will remain intact.

Technology Goals

The draft sets goals, to be reached by 2000, of wiring every school for access to the "information highway"; requiring all aspiring teachers to receive formal instruction in the use of technology; and having every district set aside a percentage of operating funds to acquire and maintain technology and provide for professional development.

Mr. Clinton also met last week with officials of technology and media companies, ranging from cable-television mogul Ted Turner to filmmaker George Lucas, to discuss how industry might help develop new electronic learning tools.

The House committee hearing, meanwhile, was perhaps most notable for the scheduled witnesses who did not attend. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., who has expressed support for increased use of classroom technology, was scheduled to lead off the event. Aides said that an unexpected meeting with Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kan., forced him to bow out. Mr. Lucas and Albert Shanker, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, were also no-shows.

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