California targets school divide

More than 1,800 California public high schools will share $167 million in

education technology grants as part of Gov. Gray Davis' plan to provide

students with state-of-the-art computers.

The one-time money, available because of a surplus in last fiscal year's

budget, aims to help bridge the digital divide in schools.

Under the plan, $163 million will buy more than 108,000 multimedia Internet-capable

computers for 1,650 schools. The idea is to reduce the students-to-computers

ratio to 5-to-1 statewide. Currently, the ratio is 7-to-1, but some schools

have ratios as high as 24-to-1.

Each school district would decide how best to spend the money — that

is, which computers to purchase or lease and whether to include installation

and maintenance costs or chip in additional funds. But schools must follow

minimum technical specifications for computers, set by the state education

secretary's office.

The remaining $4 million is earmarked to help 155 schools purchase and

install Internet wiring and computer hardware so students can access online

Advanced Placement courses. This would help small-enrollment rural schools

that previously have been unable to budget for AP courses in their curricula.

Installation is expected to be completed by fall 2001.

An additional $8 million in education technology grants will be awarded

within several weeks. Eligible high schools that did not apply for grants

in the first round will be encouraged to apply for this round.

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