Hoping to help schools access billions of newly available federal dollars, Common Sense Kids Action and the State Educational Technology Directors Association announced today the launch of a series of new online resources.
The goals are to encourage and assist state and school leaders in applying for E-rate funds over the next three years, as well as to leverage new state dollars.
“I think most of us would agree that something is wrong when coffee shops have faster Internet connections than most of our schools,” said Common Sense Media CEO and founder James P. Steyer in a statement. “With the use of advanced technology for learning and for administration, we must do everything we can now to finish the job of connecting every classroom and library.”
In 2014, the Federal Communications Commission overhauled the E-rate, which helps subsidize the cost of telecommunications services for libraries and schools. In addition to raising the program’s annual spending cap to $3.9 billion, the commission approved a series of rule changes to prioritize broadband and Wi-Fi, better support construction of new high-speed networks, and help rural schools. Support for phone service is slowly being phased out.
Learn more: The E-rate Overhaul in 4 Easy Charts
The new toolkit from Common Sense Kids Action and SETDA includes three elements: an overview of the recent modernization effort, guidance on leveraging the E-rate’s new focus on internal Wi-Fi connections, and information on how to take advantage of the FCC’s new commitment to match a portion of state contributions to new construction projects. Under the new rule, the feds will provide a dollar-for-dollar match for state funding of up to 10 percent of such efforts.
That could be key. Take, for example, a poorer district already in line to get 80 percent of the cost of a new special construction project for high-speed Internet discounted through the E-rate program. Now, if that district can get the state to kick in 10 percent, the FCC will match that, meaning that the new construction will be free to the district.
“It is essential that every child in our country be able to seamlessly access digital resources,” SETDA interim executive director Lan Neugent said in a statement. “These documents will help guide educators and policy makers as they work to put in place high-speed bandwidth for classrooms and libraries.”
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A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.