News in Brief: A Washington Roundup
USAC Extends Wiring Aid To More E-Rate Schools
The E-rate will subsidize wiring projects at schools and libraries serving somewhat wealthier student populations than those it supported in its first year, the Universal Service Administrative Co. said Aug. 27.
USAC, which runs the federal program of educational discounts for telecommunications services, is in the midst of awarding more than $2 billion in discounts. The breaks range from 20 percent to 90 percent, with the biggest discounts going to applicants serving the poorest students. As was the case last year, schools at every discount level will get cut-rate telephone and Internet services.
Separately, support for internal connections, such as classroom wiring and computer servers, will now go to applicants eligible for E-rate discounts of 65 percent and higher. Last year, schools had to be at the 70 percent discount level to receive support for wiring.
In other news, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit has dismissed challenges to the E-rate in a lawsuit filed by several state agencies and telecommunications companies led by GTE Corp. The July 30 decision in Texas Office of Public Utility Counsel v. Federal Communications Commission held that the FCC acted within its authority when it required telecommunications carriers to pay into the program's support fund, to make Internet access and internal connections eligible for support, and to allow support payments to companies that are not telecommunications carriers, as long as they provide eligible services.
— Andrew Trotter
GEAR-UP Grants Announced
President Clinton recently announced the awarding of nearly $120 million for 185 new grants to help disadvantaged middle school students prepare for college.
The grants, unveiled last month, come from the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, or GEAR up--an initiative authorized by Congress last fall that is expected to reach some 200,000 students during the current school year.
The Department of Education will allocate about $42 million for 21 GEAR up grants to states, while distributing $75 million for 164 partnerships between colleges, low-income middle and junior high schools, businesses, and community-based groups.
"These innovative programs start early, reaching out to students no later than 7th grade, staying with them all the way--from providing students with mentors who encourage them ... to ensuring that schools teach the classes that prepare young people for college-entrance exams, to helping families figure out how to pay for college," Mr. Clinton said in an Aug. 7 statement.
Health Initiative Publicity Sought
Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley wants school officials to help publicize the Children's Health Insurance Program.
The Department of Education sent letters last month to superintendents asking them to help identify children whose families may qualify for the program, known as CHIP. The letter will also be published in association magazines sent to members of the National Association of Elementary School Principals and the National PTA.
CHIP was created by Congress in 1997, with an appropriation of $24 billion over five years. It is designed to provide low-cost health insurance to children from birth to age 18 whose families have low incomes but are ineligible for Medicaid. Education Department officials believe there are 6 million unidentified children who are eligible to be served by either CHIP or Medicaid. The White House has made children's health coverage a top priority.
For more information on CHIP, call (800) USA-LEARN (872-5327) or go to the Education Department's World Wide Web site at www.ed.gov/chip.
—Joetta L. Sack
New Teacher Grants Awarded
The Department of Education has awarded 224 grants worth a total of $135 million to support programs to train 400,000 new teachers to use technology in the classroom.
Funding for one to three years will support development and implementation of programs to improve technology preparation in teacher education and to stimulate large-scale changes in the development and certification of technology- proficient educators.
The projects are all run by consortia, involving more than 1,350 organizations, including universities, school districts, nonprofit groups, and high-tech companies, according to the department. Private-sector participants will contribute an additional $195 million, for a total expenditure of $330 million.
Vice President Al Gore announced the grant awards, which are part of the administration's educational technology initiative. "Now we're acting to ensure that new teachers entering the workforce are ready to use these powerful information-age tools for teaching and learning," Mr. Gore said last month.
Spider-Man Joins Anti-Drug Effort
The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy is enlisting Spider-Man in its efforts to combat drug use by young people.
Barry R. McCaffrey, the director of the office, unveiled several programs last week that will use the Internet, newspapers, and television to deliver anti-drug messages. In a press release, officials said the effort was bolstered by recent data showing that the year- old billion-dollar National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign has had measurable influence on youth attitudes about drug use, and that drug use by 12- to 17-year-olds is down by 13 percent over the previous year.
This fall, a four-series Spider-Man comic book designed to give young readers skills to resist negative influences in movies and television will be distributed nationwide. In addition, the White House office has formed partnerships with several companies and organizations, including Cable in the Classroom and MediaOne, for upcoming anti-drug projects.
The office has also created an online student news bureau at www.straightscoop.org. Student journalists can win prizes by submitting stories with anti-drug themes to the World Wide Web site.
—Adrienne D. Coles
Development Efforts Honored
Seven schools and districts have won recognition from the Department of Education for their model professional-development programs.
"These outstanding honorees are equipping teachers with the skills and expertise needed so that all of today's youth will achieve educational excellence," Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley said in an Aug. 27 statement.
The school honorees are: Sprayberry High School in Marietta, Ga.; Spring Woods Senior High School in Houston; and Wherry Elementary School in Albuquerque, N.M. The district winners are: the Carroll Independent School District in Southlake, Texas; the Olathe (Kan.) District Schools; the Edmonds School District in Lynwood, Wash.; and the Norman (Okla.) Public Schools.
The national awards program for model professional development, established in 1996, recognizes comprehensive efforts to improve teacher effectiveness and student achievement that are deemed to be based on best practices and the best available research.
—Erik W. Robelen
Vol. 19, Issue 1, Page 32