Technology + Online + Industry + Partnerships

Are Changes Coming to E-Rate?

The FCC puts out a call for feedback on proposed alterations to the federally funded telecommunications program.

In BriefMAJOR CHANGES may be coming to the federalE-Rate program as soon as the 2009-2010 schoolyear, and educators and other stakeholders canhave a say in whether or not those changes occur.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) outlining a number of proposed revisions to the program, which provides qualifying schools and libraries with discounts on communication technologies and services. The notice allows the FCC to obtain public comments on proposed changes to the program, including whether certain services should be deemed eligible for E-Rate funding. Specifically, the FCC is seeking opinions from stakeholders on whether costs for the following items should be discounted through the E-Rate program: advanced firewalls; filtering, antivirus, and anti-spam software; text messaging; scheduling services and software; telephone broadcast messaging; and dark fiber. The organization is also seeking opinions on proposed changes to the definitions of voice over IP and basic telephone service, and on the interpretation of the Children's Internet Protection Act, which imposes certain requirements on institutions that receive E-Rate money.

These proposed changes could have a big impact schools that rely on E-Rate funding, and may affect budgeting as soon as 2009. "Most schools and districts are already budgeting to purchase things like internet content filtering, anti-spam, and antivirus software to make effective use of their internet access services," says Scott Weston, executive director of communications at Funds for Learning, which provides assistance to E-Rate service providers and applicants. "If a school receives E-Rate discounts for some of these items, it could free up funding at the district level that could be used for other projects."

Weston notes that a big increase in the scope of services supported by E-Rate should also mean a reevaluation of the annual base contribution from the Universal Service Fund, which he says has been at $2.25 billion since the beginning of the E-Rate program. Funds for Learning has posted a summary of the NPRM. To read the full document and for instructions on how to post or reply to comments on it, visit here. Comments are due Sept. 18; replies to comments are due Oct. 3.


AS PART OF THE LATEST reauthorizationof the Higher EducationAct, which sets the provisions ofthe major federal student aid programs,Congress has approved thecreation of a new research facility:the National Center for Researchin Advanced Information and DigitalTechnologies.

The center will support a research and development program that will explore how technology can improve learning in K-12 schools, colleges and universities, and corporate and government training centers. Its operation will be led by a nine-member board of directors, chosen by the secretary of education from nominations made by members of Congress.

"This new national center will help move schools, universities, and training facilities nationwide into the 21st century," said Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, one of the proposal's original sponsors, in a statement. "America's reputation as an international leader rests in the hands of our youth, and it should be among our top priorities to provide our students with the tools they need to maintain and build upon this standing."

Before ground can be broken on the new facility, it must secure funding-- to the tune of $50 million by fiscal year 2009. Initial financing will come from the Department of Education, and because it is designated as a nonprofit organization, the center will also be able to accept money from private donors.

:: Industry News

ILC 2008 PREREGISTRATION STILLOPEN. Discover new, creative ways toadvance student achievement at theInnovative Learning Conference 2008(, taking place Oct.14-16 in San Jose, CA. To receive a discounton the conference registration fee,you must preregister by Sept. 19. Afterthat, regular registration will be availableonline, by mail, and at the event,but full fees will apply. For more informationabout ILC, see page 53.

TELEPARENT, CABE ANNOUNCE STUDY. TeleParent Educational Systems, a provider of multilingual school-to-home communication solutions, and the California Association for Bilingual Education (CABE) have announced a collaborative research initiative. The study is intended to evaluate the impact that school-to-home multilingual communications efforts have on student academic performance. During the three-year research effort, TeleParent will install its solutions in randomly selected California schools, and CABE will provide credentialed results yearly.

THE GROW NETWORK SPONSORS LEADERSHIP BOARD. The Grow Network, a division of McGraw-Hill Assessment and Reporting, has created a board that advocates academic success through parental involvement. The Parent Engagement Leadership Board comprises family and educational researchers, administrators, and practitioners who will identify strategies and tools that can foster parental participation in education for improved student success. The board will share its findings and recommendations with the education community and the community at large to promote family involvement in education. Awards and Contests

PBWIKI LAUNCHES WEB 2.0 CHALLENGE. More than 100,000 teachers and librarians can win educational prizes by entering the Back to School Challenge sponsored by Web 2.0 collaboration host PBwiki. To participate in the challenge, educators simply need to log on and complete a list of tasks, which includes creating a wiki and inviting other educators to sign up for it. Participants will earn a free one-year "Gold" upgrade on the PBwiki site, and top performers will receive prizes donated by PBwiki, Lego Education, and other education vendors. The program runs through Oct. 31.

VERNIER, NSTA SEEK INNOVATIVE SCIENCE TEACHERS. Vernier Software & Technology, an innovator of data collection technology, and the National Science Teachers Association are teaming up to present the Vernier/NSTA Technology Awards to the most resourceful K-16 science teachers in the country. The awards will be given to seven educators judged to have created the best inquiry-based, hands-on learning activities using data collection technology interfaced with computers, graphing calculators, and other handheld devices. Prizes will include $1,000 in cash, $1,000 in Vernier equipment, and $1,000 toward expenses for attending the NSTA's 2009 national convention. Applications and guidelines are available here. Entries are due by Oct. 15.

Correction: In our August article"Make It Work," Scott Weston of Fundsfor Learning was incorrectly quoted.The amount of money available for theE-Rate program has remained at $2.25billion a year since 1997, as Westonalso notes on page 16, not a quarter of abillion dollars. We regret this error.

This article originally appeared in the 09/01/2008 issue of THE Journal.