Bush Says Computers No Substitute

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 23, 2000

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — George W. Bush is promoting a $400 million plan to prod schools into using the Internet as a learning tool, not a substitute for real education.

“Behind every wire and machine must be a teacher and a student who know how to use that technology to help develop a child’s mind, skills and character,” the Texas governor and Republican presidential candidate said Monday in prepared remarks obtained in advance by The Associated Press.

The proposal, released during a three-day swing through the West Coast, was another volley in the campaign debate over how much say the federal government should have in education.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

Vice President Al Gore, the presumptive Democratic nominee, and President Clinton have pushed for schools in poor communities to have access to computers and the Internet to help them compete with more fortunate kids.

While Bush agrees that Internet access can help close the “achievement gap” between the groups, he says merely providing funding and Internet access runs the risk of allowing teachers to use cyberspace as an educational crutch.

His proposals include tying $400 million over five years in new funding for education technology to student performance. In exchange, schools would have more flexibility in how to use the money.

The plan would:

–Provide $65 million annually to the Department of Education’s Office of Education Research and Improvement for universities and other research institutions to conduct research on which methods of education technology boost student achievement.

–Earmark $15 million a year to establish the Education and Technology Clearinghouse to make available to schools and states information on effective education technology programs, best practices and the latest research studies.

–Ensure that federal funds are distributed based on need, giving priority to rural schools and those with high percentages of low-income students.

–Require states to establish accountability measures for how education technology funds improve student achievement.

The federal government now spends about $3 billion in education technology through a wide range of programs to help schools, such as the Federal Communications Commission’s $2.25 billion Schools and Libraries program. Called the “E-Rate” program, it helps provide affordable access to advanced telecommunications services for all eligible schools and libraries in the United States.

The Education Department spends more than $730 million on eight programs for various grants and incentives for schools to develop software, train teachers and set up community technology centers. Between 1994 and 1999, the number of schools with Internet access jumped from 35 percent to 90 percent.

But even with this progress, the Bush campaign believes it is unclear whether the federal investment is resulting in higher student achievement.

Bush agrees with Gore that technology can help close the “achievement gap” between disadvantaged students and their peers.

But, he said in his remarks, “Technology cannot make students learn.”