[ Text Version ]



MAY 13, 1997

Good morning everybody.

I've had this job at the FCC for three years now. Before that, for 20 years I was a lawyer. Before that, I had a respectable job --- as a teacher. In fact I was a teacher of social studies in a middle school exactly like this particular middle school. At that middle school, we didn't have books for every kid in the classroom, we didn't have maps, and we could not teach current events from anything current because we did not have any of those resources.

So when we talk about the Internet, I think about that particular school and I think about the way we can create an equality of opportunity in education in America by connecting everyone to the library that is on the Internet today. Almost anything you want to learn about and almost anything you want to teach is found on the Internet today. It is a library for the whole world and anyone that would like the opportunity to click through the Internet or try to teach from the Internet has found the material is all there.

The other day my ninth grade son told me he was reading a book on Dickens and had left it at school. You can find the whole book right on the Internet. You can pull down the exact text, you can search for words and use the material even though you might not have the book in your library, or as in this case, he had left it in his locker in gym.

We have never before had this kind of equality of opportunity in education in this country, and I honor all of you who are spreading equality and quality in education by putting communications in every classroom in the country. The President of the United States in 1994 in his State of the Union Speech said that we had to do this by the end of this decade. A lot of people in this country have been listening to that call and acting on it.

I particularly want to acknowledge the tremendous contributions in Washington, DC, of General Julius Becton, Chairman and CEO of the District of Columbia public schools. All of us who have lived in this area - and I grew up in this area, went to school in Washington and lived here almost all of my almost fifty years of life - have never seen such leadership in this school district and such leadership in this city, and I really compliment you, General Becton, and I'm really happy to see what you're doing.

I also want to compliment Mr. Tom Pyle, Executive Director of the Network for Instructional Television, and Mr. John Prisco, Chairman and CEO of CAI Wireless Systems, for your charitable activities in providing computers and wireless communication equipment to this school that offer these students high-speed wireless Internet access. It is the vision of what your businesses could do for kids that has gotten us all together, and I'm very proud to see you here.

I want to thank Linda Roberts, Director of the Office of Educational Technology at the Department of Education, for being here with us. In particular, I'd like to thank her boss, Education Secretary Richard Riley, for his leadership in all these areas.

Just last week, with the support of a lot of people in this room and with the support of the President and the Vice President, we managed at the FCC to cast a very famous vote in our Universal Service proceeding. We voted unanimously to spend in this country $4 billion each year, forever, on communications in schools. Over the next five years this will average $100,000 per school in the United States.

This is the biggest single program at the national level from grades K to 12 since we invented public schools in this country. This is a very big thing.

Congress, under Senator Olympia Snowe and Senator John Rockefeller, asked that this money be set aside specifically in every school for communications, and it's necessary that the money be matched up with the money from the school system. So it is a matching grant program and the $4 billion is a total of the match. Every single school in every single school district, and the leaders of every single school district, need to come up with a matching proposal to us. But you start with what you have.

If you've got $5 million - General Becton was telling me then he will give $5 million for technology - that will match up with a larger sum from this national fund. We'll be in close touch with General Becton and the DC schools because I think all of us realize the DC school system should be the crown jewel of the American education system. This is where foreigners come to visit and where the whole country has a lot of focus and attention. For a long time we left this crown jewel covered with dust and tarnished and not subject to the kind of attention it deserves.

But we are elevating the goal here day by day, week by week, month by month, and we are going to achieve this particular result. We're going to have the best school system in the world right here in DC, and we'll have a 21st Century school system right here in DC, and we will be demonstrating that right here today in the computer room at Evans Middle School.

Thanks for inviting me.

- FCC -