NASSP Communications Director Bob Farrace was lucky enough to be at Buck Lodge Middle School in Adelphi, MD, yesterday where President Obama announced a major private sector investment of nearly $750 million for schools to improve digital learning. The additional funding for education technology is a major win in the administration’s ConnectED initiative to connect 99% of students to “next-generation connectivity” in 5 years.
Companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Verizon and AT&T have pledged to provide their products, mobile and wireless services, and professional development for educators at a reduced cost, or for free to certain low-income schools. According to a White House fact sheet, these commitments will “help make the most of the government investment in broadband infrastructure by ensuring it is put the best educational use.”
The US Department of Agriculture will also provide $10 million in distance learning grants for rural schools to purchase equipment and services such as videoconferencing.
At a Digital Learning Day event in Washington, DC, today, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler is expected to announce a new $2 billion investment in broadband and wireless services for schools through the E-Rate program. NASSP is cautiously optimistic about this proposal, which would improve management of the program and make it easier and cheaper to disperse funds to high-need schools. We have been engaged in conversations with FCC officials about modernizing the E-Rate program, but we also reiterate our call for raising the cap on E-Rate so funds are sustainable in a digital learning environment that is constantly increasing the demands on our schools and the networks they rely on.
NASSP is very pleased to hear that President Obama will include funding in his FY 2015 budget proposal for professional development for teachers and school leaders as they transition to digital learning and high-speed connectivity. School leaders were very disappointed when funding for the Enhancing Education Through Technology program was eliminated in FY 2011 (need to check on the date), and we have been championing Congressional proposals
to renew this federal investment.
NASSP will continue to engage federal officials in conversations about the importance of digital learning in our nation’s middle level and high schools and urge for a strong and continued investment in the ConnectED initiative.