Texas educators have salvaged the Internet site that they say holds together their tight-knit cyberspace community.
State Commissioner of Education Mike Moses announced last month that the Internet-based service called the Texas Education Network, or TENET, would be discontinued on Dec. 31.
But last week the Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas at Austin announced that it has agreed to operate the site in 1998. Teachers will be charged more for the service, however, beginning next year. The new rate had not been announced last week.
The state education department spends up to $3.8 million a year on the service, which features a site on the Internet’s World Wide Web that is already run by the Dana Center. Today, for $5 a year, teachers get dial-up access to TENET’s databases, on-line libraries, technical assistance, and news groups. And while the system’s 60,000 e-mail accounts are not enough for all 400,000 Texas teachers, the service is a popular TENET offering.
But Mr. Moses said that the service is too expensive and that easy access to private Internet providers has made state support unnecessary.
New Rate Negotiated
To ease the move away from TENET, the state negotiated a $9.95 monthly rate for teacher Internet access through private providers before the Dana Center stepped up to continue the service.
But that did not allay the concerns of TENET fans, who created their own Web page to rally backing for their endangered site.
“There was just a groundswell of support,” said Lynda Farabee, a journalism teacher at Levelland High School in western Texas. “We wanted TENET for what it did for teachers in the classroom.”
Last week, a Dana Center official praised teachers for their TENET support. “The [TENET] community will be preserved,” said Connie Stout, the director of TENET at the Dana Center, an education research unit at the university. “This is a tribute to Texas educators and their desire to continue what the [Texas Education Agency] started in 1991.”
Some teacher are still smarting about the education department’s decision. “This is a 6-year-old, very successful venture into technology, and there seemed to be no effort to talk to anybody about this,” said Don Bass, the dean of instruction at the College of the Mainland in Texas City.
The department is promising to boost teacher resources on its own Web site, but Mr. Bass, a frequent TENET user, is skeptical: “The TEA site is too administrative and not teacher oriented.”