Computers in Schools

Each day, millions of Florida school kids log on to the World Wide Web, but the federal government is threatening to disconnect this vital service, and it's all over money.

Nearly all of Godby High School's 1,400 students will tap the keys of a computer, but this connection is in danger of being unplugged by the federal government.

"E-rate from federal government pays for all of our Internet access at public schools and universities, then federal government came back and said we are not giving you the grant because they were under the impression we had to take the lowest price," says Francis Marine.

Instead, DOE awarded a $9 million contract to Hayes e-government resources to run the Florida Information Resource Network, which beat out three others for the job.

"We are looking for the best value, while there may have been lower prices they may have not offered all of the services we need," Francis adds.

Francis Marine, with the Department of Education, says the federal government misinterpreted Florida's bidding process, a misinterpretation that could mean rough waters ahead when surfing the net.

"I don't want to see it go away because we need it for out school system and parents to function as well as it has been," says Fred Varn.

Leon County school board member, Fred Varn, says Internet access is a vital part of public education without it the home to school connection could be muffled.

DOE appealed the ruling, penalizing them for not choosing the lowest bidder; a move they hope will keep Florida kids connected to the World Wide Web. DOE officials are confident the ruling will be overturned. If not, they will form a contingency plan to provide the service.