The Education and Libraries Networks Coalition Touts the Benefits of The E-rate Program in the Wake of Congressional Hearings
Carrie Lowe, ALA
Anjetta McQueen, NEA
Washington, DC. (June 17, 2004) – The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee will hold hearings today on alleged abuses on the E-rate program, which provides discounts on telecommunication services, Internet access, and internal connections to America’s public and private schools and public libraries. The Education and Libraries Networks Coalition (EdLiNC), a coalition representing the nation’s leading education and library associations, deplores any abuses of this critical program and supports all efforts to ensure the program’s integrity. Simply put, the E-Rate program has achieved too much (connecting 92% of public school instructional classrooms and 95% of public libraries), means too much to the millions of students, educators and library patrons it serves, and has so much further to go to allow it to be derailed by limited instances of waste, fraud and abuse.
EdLiNC is already on record with the Federal Communications Commission in support of strong penalties for service providers, schools or libraries that commit fraud, and we support the Commission’s efforts to respond to problems as they have arisen. For instance, EdLiNC lent its support to a Commission proposal to level appropriate punishments against applicants and providers who knowingly and repeatedly violate program rules. We hope that the Subcommittee’s series of hearings will show the need for the establishment of sanctions with teeth for such rule violators.
EdLiNC is proud to have supported the E-Rate program and believes that it has accomplished a great deal over the past seven years. Since its inception in 1998, the program has generated $12.9 billion dollars, helping schools and libraries, in both urban and rural areas, by providing nearly universal Internet access — an almost unimaginable goal before the program existed. As with other universal service programs, e.g., the high cost or low-income programs, the ongoing need for the E-Rate program is not diminished by its success. Only with its continued existence will rural schools be able to afford the telecommunications costs associated with distance learning and Internet access, will inner city districts be able to bring broadband access to all schools, and will libraries be able to afford the bandwidth they require. Only with the E-rate program’s continued existence will schools and libraries be able to maintain or upgrade their networks. Only then will the full benefits of the program reach recipients beyond the most desperately impoverished. EdLiNC supports the need to diligently monitor the program and further reduce the potential for waste, fraud and abuse, but we firmly believe that the good accomplished by the program speaks for itself.
EdLiNC’s 2003 publication, “E-Rate: A Vision of Opportunity and Innovation,” provides 38 case studies of communities from around the nation that have benefited from the program. The EdLiNC publication, which can be found at www.edlinc.org/resources.html#edlincpubs, details demonstrated results from this program including:
- 1- E-rate discounts serve as an important tool for economic empowerment in underserved communities, as at the Creston-Dement Library in Creston, Illinois, where workers laid off from factories are now accessing training online to prepare them to enter other industries;
2- E-rate discounts enable new learning opportunities to special education students, such as those at the independent Kings Daughters’ School in Tennessee, who can now benefit from online educational resources;
3- E-rate discounts transform education for rural American students such as those at New Mexico’s Logan School District, who can now take advanced placement courses through distance education; and
4- E-rate discounts help schools improve student achievement and comply with the No Child Left Behind Act in places like Washington’s Bridgeport School District, where administrators are employing online testing, diagnosis and prescription.
EdLiNC member organizations collaborating on this press release include:
American Association of School Administrators
American Federation of Teachers
Association of Educational Service Agencies
American Library Association
Consortium for School Networking
Council of Chief State School Officers
International Society for Technology in Education
National Association of Elementary School Principals
National Association of Independent Schools
National Catholic Educational Association
National Education Association
National Education Knowledge Industry Association
National Rural Education Association
Rural School and Community Trust
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Department of Education