NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Public Schools Do Not Compute

March 20, 2003

Only a few years ago, the slogans were all for "a computer in every classroom," or "a computer for every child." But the promise that teachers would employ computers for instruction if classrooms were stocked with them hasn't been met.

Tens of thousands of computers are gathering dust in U.S. schools -- while teachers continue to rely on chalkboards and fill-in-the-blank workbooks to educate students, according to education specialists.

  • More than nine out of every 10 public school classrooms are connected to the Internet -- and experts estimate that there is now one computer available for every five students.
  • The "E-Rate" tax paid by every phone user provides more than $2 billion annually for public schools to equip and wire classrooms -- and federal matching grants have supplied even more.

Some observers cite poor teacher training for the reluctance to use computers in the classroom. Money for teacher training, however, isn't lacking because public schools spend at least $20 billion annually on professional development.

To remedy the situation, experts suggest:

  • Pressure school principals to commit their teachers to computer instruction.
  • Cutting off E-Rate money to all but the neediest schools, then divert those resources to schemes aimed at boosting computer utilization.

Source: James Guthrie (Vanderbilt University), "Computers Idle in Public Schools," USA Today, March 18, 2003.

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