In 2010, the state education board adopted the Common Core State Standards and since then, many school districts in Michigan have been busy implementing the standards or preparing to do so. Part of the preparation entails updating school network infrastructure, including wireless access, network ports, servers, cabling, data protection, and connection speeds of traffic in and out of the network. A key component of the Common Core is that technology supports computer based student assessment. Without a robust infrastructure to support the technology necessary for Common Core teaching, learning, and assessment, districts will be hard pressed to implement the standards. What are the financial resources for districts to upgrade infrastructure?
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 authorized the E-rate program to fund connecting schools to the Internet. At that time, only 15% of classrooms were connected to the Internet and today, almost all schools and libraries are connected. But the network and technology demands of the Common Core Standards requires more upgrades to broadband quality connections in all schools, classrooms, and libraries, so the E-rate funding once again is critical to schools. However, the need for funding and the funding appropriated are far apart.
This past April, the demand estimate for the E-rate program was released and for fiscal year 2013, the requested discounts totaled $4.986 billion. Priority 1 requests, for telecommunications and Internet access, totaled $2.709 billion, while Priority 2 requests, for internal connections, totaled $2.277 billion. Unfortunately, the total funding for E-rate from the Federal Communications Commission is $2.4 billion. This leaves a significant shortfall between funding requests and the actual appropriation. So what does this mean? It means that there will be no Priority 2 funding in fiscal year 2013 in areas of technology support that are critical for classroom connectivity at speeds that will accommodate high bandwidth tasks. This news adds to the concerns already being expressed by K-12 IT professionals about supporting the Common Core Standards.
In survey of 300 K-12 IT professionals, lack of budget (76 percent) and lack of IT staff (69 percent) were the top concerns. In addition, not having enough technology for online student assessment (62 percent) and support for classroom technology for instruction (60 percent) were also listed as top concerns. So what can you do to get involved and lobby for more E-rate funds to meet the demands of the Common Core Standards?
According to Hillary Goldman, the advocacy blogger for ISTE, FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel is in support of updating the E-rate program. At the Washington Education Technology Policy Summit in early 2013, Commissioner Rosenworcel shared her vision of what she called “E-rate 2.0” and recognized that “without adequate capacity out student are going to fall short.” Getting involved with ISTE’s advocacy efforts to support “E-rate 2.0” or with other ISTE partner organizations through EdLinc can make your voice heard about the importance of E-rate funding to meet the technology demands of the Common Core Standards.