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Apple hops on board Obama program to wire up schools

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[October 28, 2014]  SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Apple Inc plans to dole out $100 million in grants to U.S. schools as part of the Obama administration's "ConnectED" program, targeting those that lack access to education technology and reliable broadband Internet.

Obama's ConnectED initiative aims to bring stable Internet to 99 percent of U.S. students by 2017 and direct federal funds to enhance the use of technology in classrooms. Microsoft and Adobe have pledged support to the program in the form of free or discounted software.

Apple will divide the funds between 114 schools in 29 states, CEO Tim Cook said on Monday after being inducted into the Alabama Academy of Honor, an organization that recognizes natives of the state for their achievements.

The iPhone maker has long highlighted the use of Macs and iPads in schools, and the growth opportunities they present. It has partnered with educational publishers such as Pearson and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, as well as cellular and Wi-Fi networks providers such as AT&T, on school programs.

Apple said it will work with schools where the majority of students are eligible for free or reduced lunches. Ninety-two percent of the eligible students are also of Hispanic, Black, Native American, Alaskan Native or Asian heritage, it said.

But its push into education has not gone without a hitch. In August, reports surfaced that the Los Angeles schools superintendent had suspended a $1 billion contract with Apple to provide iPads to schools.

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Cook also took the opportunity on Monday to criticize his home state for its lack of commitment to civil rights, particularly its slow progress to ensure equality for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

(Reporting By Christina Farr; Editing by Ken Wills)

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