CONGRESSMAN SEEKS TO END E-RATE PROGRAM

U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) has proposed legislation (H.R. 1252) that would terminate the E-rate program that provides $2.25 billion a year in subsidies for technology upgrades in schools and libraries.

Tancredo contends that the E-rate, a surcharge on telephone bills, is a hidden tax. He also says the program has been plagued by waste, fraud and abuse and is under investigation by the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee.

“If states and telecommunications companies believe that a program to subsidize Internet capabilities is still necessary, they should fund it themselves rather than passing the cost along to hard-working overtaxed Americans,” the congressman says.

In light of the threats to the E-rate, the Consortium for School Networking, an advocate of school technology, is urging school administrators to voice their support for continuation of the program.

IMPROVING SCHOOL WEBSITES

Is the website for your school or university meeting the needs of students, staff and the school community? A new resource can help answer that question.

The U.S. Department of Education has put together a manual to help schools and universities build an effective presence on the Internet. The 101-page document, “Weaving a Secure Web Around Education: A Guide to Technology Standards and Security,” provides advice about content, technical guidelines, regulations, and selecting hardware and software.

“Any organization can launch a useful website, no matter what the level of expertise and funding,” says the guide's executive summary. “However, the sophistication of the site and physical locations of the web servers will depend largely on where the resources can be found and what funding is available.”

The first five chapters are intended primarily for administrators and “are written in nontechnical language to address planning, purchasing, policy, legal issues, and the educational value of operating a website,” the guide states.

The guide can be found on the web at http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2003/2003381.pdf (Adobe Acrobat Reader required).

FREE INTERNET ACCESS FOR MAINE STUDENTS

Seventh- and eighth-grade students in Maine who come from low-income families will get free Internet access at home through a state program paid for with donated funds.

Before leaving office in January, Maine Gov. Angus S. King announced the initiative — a companion to the Maine Learning Technology Initiative, which has provided laptop computers to all seventh- and eighth-grade students in the state.

About half of the schools let students take their computers home for research, but those without Internet access have been at a disadvantage.

Donations from two private foundations — and $100,000 from King himself — will help pay for the connections. Telecommunications companies are providing connections without charge.

State officials estimate that 4,000 to 5,000 students who qualify for free or reduced-cost lunches will benefit from the program. Cash donations and the in-kind service are valued at $5 million.

SCHOOLS WITH WEBSITES, 2001

School type %
All public schools: 75
Elementary 73
Secondary 83
Less than 300 students 63
300 to 999 students 78
1,000 or more students 87
Less than 35% eligible for free or reduced-price lunch 83
35 to 49% eligible for free or reduced-price lunch 77
50 to 74% eligible for free or reduced-price lunch 71
75% or more eligible for free or reduced-price lunch 59
Source: U.S. Department of Education.