In its role helping the nation’s schools connect to the Internet and other telecommunications services, the E-rate has been among the most consistent of federal programs. But perhaps too consistent, educators and experts say.
Funding for the “education rate” program has held at about $2.25 billion a year since it was created under the Telecommunications Act of 1996, and it covers few of the technology services available to schools beyond simple Internet and phone connectivity.
But now, with a critical mass of schools connected to the Web, experts say inadequate funding and the program’s onerous and often confusing rules and procedures can complicate schools’ efforts to pursue more innovative tech-based approaches to teaching and learning.
“The scope of technology is expanding, but the E-rate is not there yet,” said Gary Rawson, Mississippi’s E-rate coordinator and the chair of the State E-rate Coordinators Alliance. “All the schools love it, all of them apply for it, but if you use E-rate you are going to have to deal with some frustration.”
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