February 15, 1996

"In our schools, every classroom in America must be connected to the information superhighway with computers and good software and well-trained teachers....I ask Congress to support this education technology initiative so that we can make sure this national partnership succeeds."
President Clinton, State of the Union, January 23, 1996


The President has launched a national mission to make all children technologically literate by the dawn of the 21st century, equipped with communication, math, science, and critical thinking skills essential to prepare them for the Information Age. He challenges the private sector, schools, teachers, parents, students, community groups, state and local governments, and the federal government, to meet this goal by building four pillars that will:

  1. Provide all teachers the training and support they need to help students learn through computers and the information superhighway;
  2. Develop effective and engaging software and on-line learning resources as an integral part of the school curriculum;
  3. Provide access to modern computers for all teachers and students;
  4. Connect every school and classroom in America to the information superhighway.


President Clinton today proposed the creation of a $2 billion, five year, Technology Literacy Challenge to catalyze and leverage state, local, and private sector efforts so that our schools provide all our children with a greater opportunity to learn the skills they need to thrive in the next century.

State Challenge with Maximum Flexibility: While states will be asked to come forward with a state-wide strategy to meet this four-part national mission, they will be given maximum flexibility to accomplish these objectives. In order to receive funds, states must only meet the following three objectives:

  1. State Strategy: Each state will develop a strategy for enabling every school in the state to meet the four goals that the President has outlined by the dawn of the next century. These state strategies will ensure that local districts and schools from the suburbs to the inner cities to rural America are able to participate fully in this initiative. Strategies will include benchmarks and timetables for accomplishing the four goals, but these measures will be set by each state, not by the federal government.
  2. Private Sector Partnership and Matching Requirement: State strategies should include significant private-sector participation and commitments to meet the four pillars. Private-sector commitments should at least match the amount of federal support. Such a match can be met by volunteer services, cost reductions and payments for connections under the expanded Universal Service Fund provisions of the Telecom Act, and a range of other commitments.
  3. Annual Progress Report to the Public: To ensure accountability, each state must not only set benchmarks, but it must also publicly report at the end of every school year to its residents the progress made in achieving its benchmarks and how it will achieve the ultimate objectives of its strategies in the most cost-effective manner.
Local Community Challenge Option: While states are encouraged to come forward with state-wide strategies in order to receive funding, a state may also choose to have its local communities compete individually for a pro-rata portion of its funds. Or if a state is unable to come forward with a state-wide strategy application, local communities -- or consortia -- will have the option to come forward with local plans.

Local Innovation Challenge Fund: Even where a state does have a state-wide strategy, local consortia of private companies and local communities will be eligible to compete for an Innovation Challenge Fund, which will be funded at approximately $50 million a year. This will further ensure that everyone can participate in meeting this Technology Literacy Challenge.

Funding Levels: The Technology Literacy Challenge Fund will provide a total of $2 billion over five years. The President is committed to increasing education funding each year to meet the nation's education needs while dramatically cutting lower priority spending to balance the budget. To provide the $2 billion in discretionary funding over five years, other lower priority programs will have to be frozen, cut, or eliminated. Each state will receive funding based on the number of students in each state.

Reassessment and Review: The Technology Literacy Challenge Fund will provide funding for five years, then be subject to a sunset provision to allow a review of what the Fund has accomplished and a reassessment of whether the Fund is still necessary, and if so at what level of funding.

Building on Affordable Connections under the Telecommunications Act: The President signed the Telecommunications bill on February 8, 1996. This landmark Act will lower the costs of connecting schools and classrooms to the information superhighway by billions of dollars, by requiring carriers to provide telecommunications services to schools and libraries at discounted rates -- helping schools and students gain access to the Internet and advanced information services. The Technology Literacy Challenge takes the next step by building on this new platform to support the national partnership that can now accomplish the national mission of providing all students with the basic skills they need for the 21st century.

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