The Detwiler Foundation, a California-based nonprofit that pioneered the practice of placing donated computers into schools, has pulled the plug on its national Computers for Schools program. The decision comes in the midst of a heated debate about whether computer donations help—or hurt—schools.

Started in 1991 by entrepreneur and philanthropist John Detwiler, the foundation solicited used computers from businesses, had them refurbished by prison inmates, then placed them in needy schools. In partnership with state Departments of Education, the program spread to about 20 states and supplied some 75,000 donated machines to schools nationwide.

But in

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