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Bush Proposes Allocating E-rate Funds by Formula

President Bush Jan. 23 proposed consolidating federal technology programs and allocating E-rate funds by formula as part of his education reform package.

President Bush Jan. 23 proposed consolidating federal technology programs and allocating E-rate funds by formula as part of his education reform package. 

In a document entitled "No Child Left Behind," Bush said his administration "believes schools should use technology as a tool to improve academic achievement, and that using the latest technology in the classroom should not be an end unto itself."

The president's multi-faceted package calls for consolidating technology grant programs and allocating them by formula, along with E-rate funds. That, the document said, will ensure "that schools will not have to submit multiple grant applications and incur the associated administrative burdens to obtain educational technology funding. Furthermore, a single program will facilitate comprehensive and integrated education technology strategies that target the specific needs of individual schools."

The document said funds would be targeted to "high-need schools, including rural schools and schools serving high percentages of low-income students."

"Burdensome paperwork requirements," it added, "will be eliminated by sending E-rate funds to schools by a formula instead of the current application process." The document proposed allowing funds to be used for purposes including software purchases and teacher training, along with wiring and technology infrastructure.

The program also called for permitting funds to be used to purchase filters to enable schools to comply with the new Children's Internet Protection Act. Currently, e-rate funds cannot be used to purchase application software, teacher training or filters.

States would also be "encouraged to set performance goals to measure how federal technology funds are being used to improve student achievement."

Many of Bush's proposed reforms could be enacted through changes in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which Congress has been debating since its last session. The E-rate program, however, was created by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which expanded the longtime Universal Service Fund to include the Schools and Libraries Program. While most educational technology programs are funded with budgeted appropriations, the E-rate program is supported by contributions to the USF from telecommunications companies, based on the level of their revenues.

Many of the limits on how E-rate funds can be used were based on the intent of the original legislation and the fact that telecommunications companies provide the funding for the program.

Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-LA, the new chairman of the House Commerce Committee, told The Washington Post Jan. 23 that he was interested in revisiting the 1996 Telecommunications Act because he believes that the FCC had not moved fast enough to open up new markets to the telephone companies.

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