The federal E-rate program plays a critical role in allowing Kansas kids to harness the power of technology in schools and libraries. The program, celebrated by Republicans and Democrats, provides access to high-speed broadband and quality wireless network devices for schools and libraries across the country.
Last year, Kansas schools received over $21.7 million in federal funding from the E-rate program, administered by the Universal Services Administrative Company under the guidance of the Federal Communications Commission. These funds are directly applied to improving the local public education infrastructure and allowing our children to harness the power of technology in our classrooms.
Our country’s economic prosperity depends on educating our kids so they can compete with their peers around the world, and we can’t do that without access to the best of technology in every school. We have made great progress through E-rate to connect most schools and classrooms in America. But we haven’t finished the job yet.
Current FCC Chairman Ajit V. Pai has voiced support for the program as a commissioner, repeatedly calling it a “program worth fighting for” and saying it has the potential to “help millions of children in America benefit from digital learning.” Of course, we agree with him on those points. However, since then, Chairman Pai has curiously refused to commit to protecting the program; retracted a progress report demonstrating E-rate’s success following its modernization; and expressed a desire to alter funding for the program in a way that would leave countless kids behind.
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With Chairman Pai scheduled to testify to the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation and the Internet on Wednesday, Sen. Jerry Moran has an important opportunity to stand up for kids in Kansas and throughout the country. School districts like Garden City, which received $492,000 in funding in 2016 to expand access to high speed internet services thanks to E-Rate funding.
Sen. Moran has stood up for our children in the past. We need him to continue that fight by holding Chairman Pai accountable for his promise to America’s kids at Wednesday’s hearing by asking him directly if he will commit to maintaining the modernized E-rate program and continuing the effort to connect every school and classroom in Kansas and around the country. There should be absolutely no doubt in the minds of the public that the FCC and Congress stand squarely behind this indisputably successful program that has connected millions of schoolchildren to educational opportunities and future economic success. Kansas’ and our country’s future is at stake.
We respectfully urge Sen. Moran to stand up for our nation’s schools on Wednesday.
James Steyer is CEO and founder of Common Sense Kids Action.