In partnership with The School Superintendent’s Association (AASA), this post originally appeared on The Leading Edge Blog.
As the largest education technology program in the country, the Schools and Libraries program (E-rate) has transformed Internet access in our nation’s schools. However, with digital learning opening new opportunities for students and teachers, schools and libraries must continue to utilize the program to prepare their networks for the future — and we want to help.
Before 2015, a large portion of the funding was reserved for subsidizing school phone lines; little funding was set aside to support schools with upgrading their internal networks. In 2014, AASA played a lead role in modernizing the E-rate program, advocating for key changes such as:
- A policy update to make the program broadband-centric; and
- A critical vote to increase the funding cap to ensure that applicants could access meaningful funding both Category 1 (internet access) and Category 2 (internal networking).
Since the changes, 83% of schools accessed Category 2 funding in 2018 (up from 15% in 2015) and twenty million more students have access to the minimum connectivity needed to take advantage of digital learning (Source: EducationSuperHighway). Still, more than $1 billion in E-rate funding is left on the table each year.
With the possibility that Category 2 funding may expire after this funding year, now is the time for districts that have funding remaining to apply. To understand your available Category 2 budget, find your school district on EducationSuperHighway’s free school broadband tool Compare & Connect K-12, or visit the USAC budget tool.
If your district has remaining funds, we encourage you to meet with your technology staff to make sure you can take advantage before they expire. With the E-rate 471 filing window set to close on March 27, 2019, school districts must get started now to meet all required deadlines.
Stay tuned for more posts with E-rate updates and free resources to ensure all students have access to the broadband needed to take advantage of digital learning.