Press Statement on the E-Rate Program by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) and the Consortium for School Networking (COSN)

June 18, 2004

We are disappointed to learn that a few individuals have engaged in practices that undermine the E-Rate program and endanger the great benefits it provides millions of students, teachers and community members. We support all efforts to protect the integrity of the E-Rate and bring to justice individuals that have committed fraud upon the program. We also renew our calls for the Federal Communications Commission to take action on proposals that we offered previously to institute serious sanctions for program participants who knowingly and repeatedly violate program rules. Barring those individuals who have been convicted criminally or held liable for actions taken in connection with the E-Rate, which the program’s rules now permit, does not go far enough.

“With that said, CoSN and ISTE strenuously object to any efforts to eliminate or downgrade the benefits of the E-Rate program based on a few widely-publicized instances of misconduct. The E-Rate program has performed a tremendous service to this country since its inception by connecting to the Internet the vast majority of public school classrooms. In 1996, when the E-Rate was authorized as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, it was the rare student or teacher who had any access to the wealth of curricular resources available on the Internet. Indeed, only 14% of all public school instructional classrooms had Internet access, with low income and minority schools faring even worse at 5% connectivity rates. Today, with the help of the E-Rate, that has all changed. Now, non-access to the Internet is the exception rather than the rule. As of 2002, 92% of all classrooms have Internet connectivity and 89% of classrooms in schools with either 50% or more minority enrollments or with 75% or more students eligible for the federal school lunch program are connected to the Internet. In our view, that represents real and demonstrable progress.

“Beyond the connectivity statistics, the need for E-Rate is greater now that ever before as schools grapple with implementing the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). From Alaska to Maine, students are receiving online courses in the core-curricular subjects in which NCLB seeks proficiency and teachers are signing on to obtain the credentials that NCLB mandates to be termed “highly qualified” and permitted to teach. Unplugging the E-Rate would be catastrophic at this juncture and we will oppose any such efforts to do so.”

Don Knezek, Chief Executive Officer, International Society for Technology in Education Keith Krueger, Chief Executive Officer, Consortium for School Networking

Jon Bernstein
(202) 478-6191