Published Online: January 21, 1998

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Rural Education

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Rural schools should act fast once the application process is launched for discounted telecommunications services under the federal "E-rate" program.

Federal officials said a 75-day window during which all applications would receive equal priority was slated to open as early as last week. After that, applications for discounted "education rate"--or E-rate--access will be reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis. ("'E-Rate' Program's Imminent Launch Has Educators High on Technology," Jan. 14, 1998.)

To help rural schools learn more about the program, the Education and Library Networks Coalition has set up a hot line, (800) 733-6860, and a World Wide Web site, www.eratehotline.org.

The discounts will range from 20 percent to 90 percent on services such as network wiring, Internet hookups, and equipment. The program is open to all schools, but rural sites are eligible for discounts of up to 10 percent higher than their urban counterparts. That's because rural schools "have been traditionally left out of access to technology because of cost prohibitions," said Kari Arfstrom, a legislative specialist with the American Association of School Administrators.

E-rate updates and applications can be obtained from the Schools and Libraries Corp., the administering agency, by calling (888) 203-8100, or on-line at www.slcfund.org.

A trio of education professors from Georgia and Arkansas is urging schools to rethink how they teach about rural America.

In the Winter 1997 issue of The Rural Educator, they write that some students don't know how tomatoes grow and that, overall, "children's knowledge of rural life is lacking."

"I was shocked that students I observed in a city school thought tomatoes grew on trees," said Jo Ann Bass, an associate professor in the department of early childhood and reading education at Valdosta State University in Georgia and a co-author of the article.

The authors list literature and activities that can be used to add more depth to the study of rural America. Books on Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and civil rights activist Rosa Parks top a list of readings on famous Southerners. Suggested activities include writing folk tales and tracking growing seasons.

"This is a way of developing pride in rural life," Ms. Bass added.

The other authors were Randall V. Bass, an associate professor in the department of education leadership at Valdosta State, and Ronald W. Towery, an associate professor of elementary education at Arkansas State University.

--ROBERT C. JOHNSTON rjohns@epe.org

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