OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- A portion of the state's share of tobacco

settlement money is being touted by Gov. Frank Keating as a way to

improve school technology and help finish up the funding for the

Oklahoma City National Memorial.


Keating proposed Friday that some of the money be used for a

$500 million bond issue, with half the amount going to higher

education, $100 million for a public school technology fund and

$150 million for a variety of other projects selected by the

governor and the Legislature.


"This is a prime opportunity to take some of this money now and

invest it in our future," Keating said. "To use it for school

technology, higher education and other vital projects is prudent

and I urge the Legislature to support this proposal."


Senate President Pro-Tempore Stratton Taylor, D-Claremore, said

he had a number of questions but would keep an open mind.


State School Superintendent Sandy Garrett and Bill Burgess,

chairman for the Oklahoma State Board of Regents, support the plan.


Oklahoma is scheduled to receive $2.3 billion over the next 25

years as a result of the tobacco settlement. It already has

received $24 million and a $65 million payment is expected in

April.


Keating proposed using $100 million to create a school

technology fund with money allocated in the form of matching grants

based on the technology needs and local effort in each district.


"As we approach the 21st century, our schools must be prepared

to compete," Keating said. "Our students need high-speed data

transmission and Internet connections along with up-to-date

hardware and software."


Keating said each school district knows best what it needs.

"Some districts have taken great steps forward, others have not,"

he said.


Keating said some of the technology funds could be used for

distance learning options.


"The future is the virtual classroom," he said. "Districts

that might have a shortage of teachers in one subject area can take

advantage of the technology and provide distance learning

opportunities."


Keating said he would work with Ms. Garrett and the state Board

of Education to develop final criteria for the school technology

fund.


The funds for higher education would be allocated on a per

capita basis, based on full-time student enrollment.


Keating said it was important to move ahead with projects such

as the weather center at the University of Oklahoma and the

expanding higher education programs OU and Oklahoma State

University have in Tulsa. He noted it was up to the State Regents

for Higher Education to decide how and where bond funds are to be

spent.


Taylor said basing the distribution of bond funds on enrollment

was a new approach that would need study.


"I am curious about how it would actually work because needs

are not always determined by enrollment," he said. He said that

approach might actually shortchange OSU-Tulsa.


"It has one of the smallest enrollments in the state, but its

administrators contend it has some of the biggest capital needs."


Taylor said he was also curious about the idea of dividing up

the bond money first and then trying to find projects to fit the

total. He said that might tie the regents' hands.


"By dictating how much money they can spend on the capital

needs at each institution, the governor may automatically rule out

certain projects that the regents may think are vital.

Historically, I think we've been better served by having the state

regents be the leaders in proposing capital projects."


Keating proposed that the remaining $150 million be spent on

project of statewide significance that he and the Legislature agree

on. He said he wanted to see money spent on the weather center at

OU, the Army Museum of the Southwest in Lawton, roof repairs to

National Guard armories across the state and to help finish the

memorial to victims of the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P.

Murrah Federal Building.