State Journal

Homework Online

Former Maine governor champions free Internet for low-income students.

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By the time Angus S. King Jr. left the governor’s office in 2003, he made sure the state was giving every 7th and 8th grader in Maine’s public schools a laptop to use in school.

But that wasn’t enough.

Now the former two-term governor has guaranteed that all low-income students in the state will be able to use the Internet to do their homework.

Working through a foundation he established when he left office, Mr. King raised $850,000 to pay the fees for students qualifying for free and reduced-priced federal lunches to have free dial-up Internet access from home.

“Now, a teacher can say: ‘Go home and do your research … and come in tomorrow with 10 Web sites,’ ” Mr. King, a political Independent, said in an interview.

Mr. King contributed $100,000 of his own money to the project and raised the rest from the Lunder Foundation in Dexter, Maine, and the Bernard Osher Foundation in San Francisco. Great Works Internet will provide the services for the students and will charge Mr. King’s project $8.33 a month for every student participating. That’s about half the company’s usual rate, Mr. King said.

The Biddeford, Maine, Internet service company also will offer discounted high-speed Internet access to all students and teachers that have received laptops under the initiative that Mr. King started in his second term.

Mr. King said he set up the Maine Learning Technology Foundation to offer services that supplement the laptop initiative. He considers that program one of the most important legacies of his tenure as governor, which ran from 1995 until 2003.

“We can’t fund the [laptop] program, but we can try to help around the edges,” said Mr. King, a lawyer with a Portland, Maine, law firm and a consultant on corporate mergers. He also teaches courses at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine.

Providing Internet access is an important part of expanding the laptop initiative, he said, but the state was unlikely to finance the project on its own.

He said the $850,000 in private money will last two or three years, depending on how many of the eligible students take advantage of it.

“I’m not looking for credit on this,” the former elected official added. “I’m just trying to make [the laptop initiative] work.”

Vol. 25, Issue 01, Page 23

Published in Print: August 31, 2005, as Homework Online

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