State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna applauded the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to overhaul this morning the nearly two-decade old federal e-rate program. Luna served as the Co-Chair of the Council of Chief State School Officers’ (CCSSO) Digital Learning Task Force which advocated for changes to the program.
“Today’s decision is a great opportunity for Idaho schools and students. We know that the digital divide is real and adequate Wi-Fi access is a key component in expanding learning,” Luna said. “Whether you are in an urban school district or a geographically diverse state like Idaho, we know we will never truly meet the needs of all students until we close the digital divide and provide classroom teachers the 21st century tools they need to individualize instruction for every child.”
The overhaul commits at least $1 billion dollars in federal funding to connect more than 10 million students across the country during the upcoming school year. The plan positively positions Idaho students and schools to participate in the program that would result in affordable connectivity for Idaho schools.
Since Superintendent Luna took office, his vision has been to provide equal access to the best educational opportunities for every Idaho student. The Idaho Education Network and the Idaho High School Wireless Managed Service Project has been a key component in expanding opportunities to Idaho students. For instance, during the 2012 – 2013 school year, more than 3,000 high school students earned more than 7,000 credits in IEN interactive videoconference classrooms throughout the state. The overhaul of e-rate supports the ever increasing availability to advanced opportunities for students in Idaho, through programs such as 8 in 6 and Fast Forward which allow students to get a jump start on college in middle school and high school. Now with the FCC overhaul of e-rate, all schools in Idaho could see Wi-Fi connectivity, including middle schools and elementary schools, to support digital learning.
Created nearly two decades ago, e-rate has seen little in the way of change. The overhaul of e-rate will do several things to increase education across the country. First, it commits at least $2 billion dollars over the next two years to connect students. Next, e-rate modernization will adopt clear goals for broadband to measure program success. The plan also aims to streamline the application process, allowing more schools access to the technology teachers need.