On February 6, 2013 school districts, administrators, teachers and students are championing the innovative use of technologies in the classroom and demonstrating how digital tools have helped improve student success by participating in Digital Learning Day 2013.
Digital Learning Day is a “nationwide celebration of innovative teaching and learning through digital media and technology that engages students and provides them with a rich, personalized educational experience.”
As a strong proponent of digital learning and increasing the presence of technology in the classroom, Funds For Learning used Digital Learning Day 2012 as an opportunity to highlight the success of the E‑rate program. The E-rate program serves an important role in bringing 21st century technology to the classroom. To date, the E-rate program has committed over $34 billion to schools and libraries across the nation.
But as popularity of the program rises and demand for funds increase, the availability of resources decrease.
In 2011, applicants requested over $4.5 billion for telecommunication needs and other technology upgrades, nearly double the available funding for 2011. Seeing how the demand was outpacing the available funding, Funds For Learning encouraged the FCC to allocate funds from the Connect America Fund to help close the increasing gap between E-rate demand and available funding.
At time of publication, we do not know what action, if any, the FCC is going to take to bridge the funding divide. But since the last Digital Learning Day, this is what we do know:
- Approximately 52.2 million students are represented on FY2012 E-rate applications, directly impacting approximately 95% of the K-12 students in the United States.
- Almost one-third of the students in the country attend school at sites which qualify for an E-rate discount between 80% and 89%.
- While the annual funding cap has provided an average of $44 per student in E-rate benefits, Funding Year 2012 requests totaled $87 per student.
- In the absence of an increase in the annual funding cap, a more equitable distribution of funding per student will ultimately be required in order for the E-rate program to continue to have a direct, positive impact on over 95% of the students in the country.
In the summer of 2012, Funds For Learning conducted a national survey of E-rate applicants, releasing a whitepaper on the findings in October. While the survey provided a wealth of data on the thoughts of E‑rate applicants nation-wide, two key findings jump out:
- More than 90 percent of respondents reported that the E-rate program is critical to their success
- Seventy percent of respondents believe that the E-rate program is inadequately funded
As we celebrate Digital Learning Day on February 6, it is great to look at how modern technologies are transforming the classroom. But at the same time, it is important to look at one of the most successful funding sources for this technology and consider what changes may need to be made to keep the resources available for all applicants.