Laptops-for-all plan gets thumbs down

14th April 2000 at 01:00
Legislators have blocked a US state governor's bold plan to give every student a laptop computer when they start high school.

Last month, Maine's Angus King said he would use $50 million of budget surplus and $15 million in private contributions to set up a trust fund to generate income to buy computers for 17,000 students every year from 2002.

He hoped the move would attract high-tech employers to one of the US's poorest states to take advantage of a computer-literate workforce. "This initiative will put Maine on the national technological map and place us in the front rank of other states in terms of education and integration of this essential technology into the everyday lives of our students," Mr King said.

Under the scheme, Main's 20,000 school teachers would receive training and a free computer if school districts matched the state's 50 per cent funding.

However, the state legislature's education committee has voted against the proposal in its current form. Many Maine politicians believe King's drive to reduce the digital divide and provide equal access to the Internet is not as pressing as the need to repair schools.

But President Bill Clinton praised King's idea as "remarkably good" and Professor Seymour Papert, technology and education expert of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said it would allow a curriculum that assumed all students had Net access at home and school.

Governor Angus King.

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