Panel Cuts Technology-Grant Program
A bill approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee would bar most schools and libraries from receiving federal demonstration grants for information infrastructure.
The provision, which the committee passed last month as part of a much larger spending bill, would also prune the fiscal 1999 funding level for the grants to $11 million, from the $22 million that the Clinton administration had requested. In the current fiscal year, the program handed out $20 million in grants.
The grants under the Technology Information Infrastructure Assistance Program pay for joint demonstration projects to provide services using advanced telecommunications. Schools have often been partners in such projects, along with museums, community colleges, and state and local government agencies.
Projects financed since 1994, the first year of the grants, have sought to improve public safety, provide lifelong and adult learning, and give children access to computers after school hours.
Supporters of the funding cut say the TIIAP grants are less important now, because an estimated $335 million in federal "E-rate" discounts on telecommunications services that schools and libraries are slated to receive by next summer could be used for similar functions. The language approved by the committee says schools and libraries that are eligible for the E-rate funding would be ineligible for the infrastructure grants.
But a Department of Commerce spokesman said the grants, which are administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, are not duplicated by the education-rate program, because they are awarded competitively and pay for a broader range of equipment, as well as training and evaluation.
The TIIAP measure is included in an appropriations bill that covers the Commerce Department and several other federal agencies. The full Senate is expected to consider the bill later this summer.
Vol. 17, Issue 42, Page 28