Maine Gov. Angus S. King’s proposal to give laptop computers to middle-school students has been scaled back, but it’s still alive.

During the session that ended in June, legislators slashed the funding from $50 million to $30 million. King must raise $15 million from private sources to ensure that the fund remains an endowment.

Interest from the endowment would be used to provide each seventh- and eighth-grader a laptop computer.

The legislative assaults on the endowment since it was announced in March 2000 didn’t surprise King. “Given where we started with, having virtually no support–we were at zero support, with people laughing at us–it’s amazing it survived,” he said.

The proposal has evolved since King’s first announcement, which drew national attention. No longer will the laptops be given outright to students. Instead, they would be checked out like library books.

A task force of educators, lawmakers, and technology experts who refined King’s original idea said the most effective plan would be to target seventh- and eighth-graders, and expand the program if money permits.

King now needs to raise $15 million from private foundations to help pay for the program, a job he said is “not going to be easy.”

A number of foundations and computer manufacturers have expressed interest in the idea, he said. None has discussed it publicly, because they wanted to see whether the endowment program survived the legislative process.

Apple Computer lent King a classroom’s worth of computers when he visited schools this spring to build support for the program.