At the time of writing, the United Sates has just endured the longest partial government shutdown in our nation’s history – 34 days. There were over 800,000 federal workers who failed to receive a paycheck.
What would happen if our public-school system for primary education was funded by the federal government? Would our national school system shutdown? Luckily, state budgets pay for K-12 education in the US, but that doesn’t necessarily mean our public schools are well funded. The political challenges that has brought the government to a standstill, is alive and well at the state level. Even states with some of the largest budgets for education and the highest teacher salaries (like California, New York, Florida and Texas) have their share of incredibly poor schools. The US ranks 17th in educational performance worldwide, while spends only 10% of our GDP on education. We rank 23rd in science assessment.
On May 7, 1997, the FCC adopted Order 97-157 as its plan to implement Section 254 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act. The FCC determined that “telecommunications services, Internet access, and internal connections,” including “installation and maintenance,” were eligible for discounted rates. The program, now commonly known as E-Rate, has disbursed over $38B to K-12 schools in the US since 1998 (averaging around $1.5B to $2B per year). Without these funds, technology simply fails to exist (especially at the poorest schools). From phone bills to data cabling, to switching/routing, E-Rate pays for the network infrastructure, firewalls and power-protection to allow students to access the internet.
Where would our schools be without the federal E-Rate program? How far behind would our national educational system be? With teachers going ton strike due to low wages and poor benefits, there is a slow-rolling revolution happening in US education. Many teachers’ salaries are now below the poverty level and qualify for food stamps. Many schools, without the E-Rate program to propel learning into the 21st century, might simply collapse. Thankfully, E-Rate is relatively recession proof. Taxes that fund E-Rate come from both telephone land-lines and mobile phone lines (which is sky-rocketing). Let’s continue to support our children. Support teacher salary increases, union support, educational bonds, and the federal E-Rate program.