Front page > Power Tools > How-To > News > The E-Rate Debate
July 4, 1998 Nicole Stockdale, Teachnet Staff

Since the passing of the 1996 Telecommunications Reform Act, changes in the funding of many programs have abounded. Schools have not been exempt. Now, two years later, new programs are still being implemented as a result.

One of these programs, new legislation called education rate (e-rate), assists schools and libraries in obtaining Internet services at reduced rates. The e-rate provides discounts ranging from 20% to 90%, depending on the financial need of those institutions applying. Schools cannot use the money for computers, software, staff, or training. Funds can only go toward the cost of Internet access, networking equipment and wiring, and for support equipment.

The process begins with an assessment of the school's technology inventory. They must provide the number of students, Internet-capable computers and modems, a description of networked capabilities, available software, an assessment of staff training, the amount of money required for maintenance, and proof that the building's electrical circuits can handle the additional power drain. After that, a detailed outline must be prepared, containing the school's plans for what it wants to do.

After this, the applicant posts the plan on the Schools and Libraries Corporation's Website for contractors. Here contractors can search through all the data by state, size of institution, number of buildings, and the time the information was posted on the site. Contractors can make bids on any application, but the posting must be there for at least 28 days before any contract can be signed.

When the Telecommunications Act was passed, the interstate access charges that long-distance telephone carriers pay to local phone exchange carriers. were cut. These were replaced with charges for additional programs, one of which is e-rate. Although the phone companies are calling the additional charges exorbitant, it is expected that the program will continue. Both Vice-President Al Gore and most members of Congress support it. However, cuts to its funding have already been made.

Originally, the project was given a $2.25 billion cap, of which an expected $2 billion was to be used next year. But on June 12, the Federal Communications Commission said it was cutting the fund by more than 40%. Under fire from affected phone companies who said their reduction in access charges was not adequate, the FCC is being charged with not keeping up their end of the bargain. The long distance companies say they aren't making the money they should be from the deal; they can't afford to pay additional program charges.

However, the program has survived so far. Even with the cut, the program will offer a much-needed $1.35 billion to qualifying schools. The abundance of contractors who can profit from the agreement is offset by the quantity of long-distance carriers refusing to pony up the money. And although the funds are less prevalent now, they are just as important to the schools with no Internet access.

And the debates aren't over. With senators like Arizona's John McCain against the FCC on this matter, the future of the e-rate program is volatile at best. With information on this new legislation changing almost daily, those interested should look for new information.

. Last Week: Getting Started with Classroom Chores
QuickTakes - A quick look at books:

Educating with the Internet
by Nancy Skomars
published by Charles River Media, Inc.
ISBN: 1-886801-70-3

Parents and educators alike will love Educating with the Internet by Nancy Skomars. Whether you're just starting out on the net or have been there since its inception, you will find tips to keep you going. Containing almost 400 pages, the book includes over 100 interesting lessons that are well-labeled for you to quickly find what you need, plus information on over 1300 internet sites and a glossary of terminology. The included CD-ROM is compatible with Windows and Macintosh and contains new lessons and sights, as well as a free copy of The Internet Watchdog, a monitoring program. If you have the internet at home or in your classroom, you owe it to your children to own this book.

The Education Place Summer Fun Page

The Education Place has another site ready for teacher participation. This time it is sponsoring its annual TeacherView contest, running from June 24 through August 6. The site offers educators the opportunity to share their ideas for literature-based classroom activities with other teachers while competing for prizes at the same time.

The emphasis of the contest is on children's and young adult literature in the classroom. Teacher write a brief summary of a book and describe the projects or activities they use to support the literature in the classroom. These TeacherViews will be posted weekly throughout the summer. At the end of the contest, four teachers who submit the most TeacherViews will be awarded prizes. A grand prize will go to the teacher whose submissions sparked the interest of the site's editors.

Bureau of Land Management's Environmental Education homepage

This site offers the BLM Resource Explorers page, among other education sites. The Explorers page features the work of a particular BLM resource specialist, giving information on the explorer, his/her specialty, current field work sites, classroom activities, and relevant corresponding internet sites. Teachers are even encouraged to talk with the explorer directly, via email, through their "Ask A Question" section.

The site takes a little while to download, as it is rather graphics-heavy. But the information there is worthwhile. This site will offer a great starting point for those doing history, nature, or science. Or use it as a supplemental lesson to those you already have planned.

Do-Little Aquariums
aquarium link)
curriculum link)

A Do-Little Aquarium is a miniature aquarium that takes very little maintenance, no pump, and no filter. The bright beads at the bottom of the kit are the trick. Manufactured from silica dioxide and mineral water, they contain millions of microscopic pores that house beneficial bacteria. These bacteria help break down waste. you add a plant for oxygen for your fish. Keep feeding it, and your aquarium is complete.

At the second address listed above, you can find a useful curriculum page that offers online resources for projects with the aquariums. In addition, BioSand, the aquarium manufacturers, offer discounts for K-12 classroom projects and fundraisers.