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Clinton Details School-Technology Initiative; Two Reports Issued

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Washington

President Clinton officially kicked off his school-technology initiative last week, promising to ask Congress for $2 billion over five years to help make all American children technology-literate by 2000.

Mr. Clinton and Vice President Al Gore outlined the "New Technology Literacy Challenge" during Feb. 15 visits to two public schools in Union City, N.J.

"We must make sure all our children ... have access to the educational opportunities of the present and future," the president said.

He spoke at Christopher Columbus Junior High School, a once-troubled school that reorganized its curriculum around technology and put computers in students' homes with funding from the Bell Atlantic telephone company.

To qualify for grants under Mr. Clinton's proposal, states would draft technology plans that include private-sector participation. Local communities or consortia could apply in states without plans. Local public-private partnerships could also compete for aid under the existing Technology Learning Challenge program, which Mr. Clinton would expand from $10 million this year to $50 million.

Mr. Clinton outlined the plan in his State of the Union Address. (See Education Week, Jan. 31, 1996.)

"You don't go around asking for $2 billion unless you're serious," said David Byer, the education-policy manager for the Washington-based Software Publishers Association. Even if the plan dies in Congress, he said, Mr. Clinton's emphasis could force educators to reassess their use of technology.

New Reports

Meanwhile, the Department of Education last week released a statistical report on telecommunications in schools. The 1995 survey found that 50 percent of public schools had access to the Internet computer network, up from 35 percent in 1994.

Small districts and those with many poor students were less likely to be hooked up. Sixty-five percent of secondary schools had Internet access, compared with 46 percent of elementary schools.

Also last week, Mr. Clinton and Mr. Gore accepted a 107-page report on the benefits and difficulties of connecting schools to the Internet, prepared by the Advisory Committee on the National Information Infrastructure.

The president also announced that the Washington-based Benton Foundation will promote the panel's work with forums where schools, libraries, and other public institutions can showcase their use of telecommunications.

Copies of "A Nation of Opportunity: Realizing the Promise of the Information Superhighway" and a document called "KickStart," designed to assist local telecommunications planning, are available from the Benton Foundation's fax service at (800) 622-9013, or on the Internet at http://www.benton.org.

Copies of "Advanced Telecommunications in U.S. Public Schools 1995" are free from the National Center for Education Statistics, 555 New Jersey Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20208; (202) 219-1333.

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