Christopher Myers, a Republican candidate for state representative, introduced a proposal yesterday to give a laptop computer to every seventh grader in Ohio.
"Ohio can help bridge the academic gap by making sure that all schools and seventh-grade students have the technology equipment needed" today, Mr. Myers said. "The important thing is that Ohio has an army of graduates that are technology literate. Companies will take notice of this environment, and will create jobs to hire these graduates."
Mr. Myers, the Web master for the University of Michigan Internet site, said that, based on comparable bids other states have received from computer vendors, the cost of the program in Ohio would be about $39 million.
Funding would come from the state's proceeds from video-slot machines, should the state approve a bill allowing the gambling units to be placed at race tracks around Ohio, he said.
"If companies know they have a work force that is tech-literate, they will be more willing to relocate here and brings jobs. In the long run, this program will pay for itself over and over," he said.
He is challenging incumbent Democrat Jeanine Perry in the November election in the 49th Ohio House district, which includes parts of West Toledo, the city of Oregon, Jerusalem Township, and the village of Harbor View. It is his first campaign for public office.
Mr. Myers said his program would be modeled after those in Maine and Michigan, where the students are given the computers at the beginning of the year and return them at the end. He said he envisions a four-year program, after which its effectiveness would be evaluated.
He said his plan would provide computer training that would help teachers integrate the computers into their regular lesson plans. Each computer would have capability to log onto the Internet using a wireless modem, and the computer vendor contract should include the construction of wireless Internet networks at every school.
Mrs. Perry said she likes the idea, but prospects for the video gambling bill Mr. Myers would use to pay for the program is "very unlikely" to pass the General Assembly. It was recently quashed, but could resurface before the end of the year.
"In general, certainly the more computers we can get into the hands of young people, the better," said Mrs. Perry, who is serving her third term in Columbus. But, she added, "when we have a good idea, we also have to have a good funding mechanism."
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