Adding his voice to a growing chorus that warns that schools could be squeezed off the "information highway'' by high tolls, the filmmaker George Lucas has called on Congressional lawmakers to push for a telecommunications-fee structure that would give all schools access to sophisticated computer networks.
Mr. Lucas last month stressed the importance of "universal access'' to what the telecommunications industry calls "plain old telephone service'' as a vital precursor to the information highway that Vice President Gore has said should be available to every student.
In written remarks submitted to the House Telecommunications and Finance Subcommittee, Mr. Lucas, in his role as the chairman of the George Lucas Education Foundation, called on lawmakers to "assure that every school is provided with free long-distance calls to access on-line services and the Internet.''
Patty Burness, the executive director of the foundation, said Mr. Lucas does not believe businesses should be barred from selling services to schools.
But currently, she noted, schools seldom receive preferential rates for education ventures.
Mr. Lucas also pointed out that, according to the National Education Association, only 12 percent of the nation's classrooms have access to a telephone.
Universal classroom-telephone service, Mr. Lucas noted, is vital if schools hope to enter the "information age.''
But, he added, "the challenge of equipping classrooms with the technology that's needed, and providing teachers with the curricula and operating budgets to operate that technology, cannot be underestimated.''
Mr. Lucas, best known for his "Star Wars'' and "Indiana Jones'' movies, in recent years has shown a deep interest in K-12 education.
Lucasfilm Ltd., one of his many enterprises, has worked with the National Geographic Society to develop an American-history videodisk. (See Education Week, Jan. 17, 1990.)
Another of his companies, LucasArts Learning, based at Mr. Lucas's Skywalker Ranch in Marin County, Calif., develops interactive educational software.
And Mr. Lucas, who saluted his own teachers two years ago at the
Academy Awards ceremony, noted that the foundation is preparing four
30-minute videos that describe his vision of "Edutopia,'' or
student-centered, technology-assisted school reform.