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Schools get high-tech infusion

California Gov. Pete Wilson on Monday unveiled a $1 billion, four-year initiative aimed at increasing computer technology and training in the state’s high schools.

If passed by the state legislature, the so-called Digital High School Initiative expects to provide $500 million in state funds over four years for high schools, with a local match requirement doubling the value to $1 billion. The matching funds primarily will be sought from the private sector. But according to the governor’s office, the state funds can be matched by local and federal government grants available to low-income schools if the schools choose to use the funds for this program.

Computer literacy

“Today, computers are as much an educational mainstay as chalk boards and text books,” Wilson said. “Every high school in California deserves the same access to this technology – to go online and get in line with the global competition of the 21st century. And we’re going to make it happen.”

Wilson’s 1997-98 budget, which will be voted on this Thursday, will include $50 million in first-year funding for the initiative and an additional $10 million for authorized computer donation programs, such as the Detwiler Foundation’s Computers for Schools program. The Detwiler Foundation works with the California department of corrections to upgrade and refurbish computers and place them in California classrooms.

Wilson unveiled the initiative Tuesday night, in his state of the state address. He will announce that with the $50 million installment outlined in next year’s budget, over the next four years more than 400,000 to 1 million new computers will be added to schools, depending on how many schools participate.

Work prep

The Digital High School Initiative is targeted at high school students who will soon be entering the work force (including the multimedia and entertainment industries), military service or college, who will use computers in those environments.

The initiative will provide $50 million in first-year funding for grants on a competitive basis for as many as 100 high school campuses to establish comprehensive educational technology programs. The requirement of local matching funds includes the value of donated computers and commitments from the private industry to enable leverage of the initial state commitment, providing an average of $1 million total project for an average-sized high school.

“I want to emphasize that this is a partnership between Sacramento and schools, not a government giveaway,” Wilson said. “To earn a grant from the state, a school must find matching funds and commit to installing computers and networks within 24 months.

Private donations sought

“But our program includes an important innovation: We will welcome and encourage private donors – a business or an industry – to make their own info-tech donations,” he added. “We also plan to work closely with the educational software and Internet content-developer communities to ensure that these new computers keep pace with the breakthroughs in online technology.”

The governor made the announcement at Del Campo High School in Fair Oaks. Wilson was joined in this announcement by the secretary of child development and education, Marian Bergeson; Senator Tim Leslie; and Assemblywoman Barbara Alby.

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