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Office of Governor Gary Locke
Contact:  Governor's Communications Office, 360-902-4136

Locke launches program to bring more computers to Washington schools

SPOKANE — Gov. Gary Locke today launched a pilot program to increase access to computers in Washington schools. The "Computers 4 Kids" program is an innovative partnership between business and state government that will distribute business-donated computers, refurbished by Washington inmates, to schools throughout the state.

"This program is a creative approach to providing all our students equal access to one of the fundamental tools of learning," said Locke. "We live in an era of dwindling resources, and our most promising route to real solutions is to create more innovative partnerships among business, government and the community."

Locke first proposed the idea last year by calling together a group of business and community leaders to explore creating a statewide partnership to make computers more accessible to Washington students and teachers. The result was the "Computers 4 Kids" program.

A pilot project of the program will be tested first in Eastern Washington. Under the pilot project, inmates at the Airway Heights Corrections Center will refurbish computers donated by businesses. These computers then will be distributed at reduced cost to public schools and colleges in Adams, Ferry, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Spokane, Stevens and Whitman counties.

"Computers are essential powerful tools in preparing kids for the knowledge-driven nature of work and life of the future," said Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Terry Bergeson. "This project is a unique opportunity for agencies to partner, so that students and adults gain the skills they need to be successful."

In its first year, the program will seek to distribute a thousand computers throughout Eastern Washington and eventually go statewide. The Association of Washington Business and the Washington Roundtable will spearhead efforts to encourage businesses to participate in the program. AT&T has donated computers and $20,000 to the project.

"It is a classic ‘win-win’ situation," said Don Brunell, president of the Association of Washington Business. "The businesses who donate the computers are eligible for tax credits. The inmates who refurbish them learn valuable computer maintenance skills. And schools receive classroom computers at reduced prices."

The Community Colleges of Spokane’s Institute for Extended Learning will train inmates at the Airway Heights Corrections Center to refurbish the computers. The first 16 inmates began training in November, and more will join the program.

"Our partnership not only enabled the department to participate in making more than 1,000 refurbished computer units available, but also created a new correctional industry at the Airway Heights Corrections Center," said Joe Lehman, secretary of the state Department of Corrections. "This venture, including the Community Colleges of Spokane, has also trained and currently employs 18 inmates at Airway Heights with a marketable skill."

The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, in conjunction with the Educational Service District 101, will identify and prioritize the schools that will receive the computers. The Community Colleges of Spokane Foundation, a private nonprofit organization, will accept and donate all computers distributed through the program.

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