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Guest Column

Put surplus computers in schools

surplus computers by U.S. Senator Patty Murray
"We need access to computers in our schools." That's one of the things I hear from students and teachers when I travel to schools across our state.
   Unfortunately, not every school district can afford to buy this expensive equipment, and many have only one computer for a classroom full of kids. But there are ways to help put this valuable technology in the hands of our students.
   Each year, the United States Senate disposes of more than 1,500 computers. While these are a generation old, they are in working condition and could be very useful to schools, especially in rural areas, that may not have the budget to buy new computers.
   I recently sponsored an amendment that will put these computers to use by making the equipment available to schools at the lowest possible price.
   The General Services Administration will provide information to schools about available inventory and then, on a first-come, first-served basis, schools will be able to obtain this equipment for use in the classroom.
   Earlier this year, President Clinton issued an executive order stating that the GSA should document surplus computers in federal agencies. My amendment will include the Senate in this process and ensure this equipment gets in the hands of the people who need it most--children.
   I believe that a child's ability to compete in the workplace of the future will depend, in part, upon her or his familiarity with technology. In my view, the earlier our children learn to use this technology, the better.
   My legislation is a small step. But through incremental stages, I hope that surplus computers government-wide can soon be placed in schools, where eager students can begin to explore the vast opportunities technology represents.
   One day soon, when I revisit many of the schools in our state, I look forward to hearing about what the students have learned on computers.