Schools tap E-Rate funding
- By Eric Kulisch
- Oct 20, 2000
"E-Rate and the Digital Divide"
In its first two years, three out of four public schools and districts have
applied for E-Rate, the federal subsidy that allows schools to build Internet
The poorest schools representing 25 percent of public school students received 60 percent of the funds, according to
"E-Rate and the Digital Divide," a report prepared by the Urban Institute
on behalf of the U.S. Education Department. Poor schools are defined as
those in which 50 percent of the students are eligible for free and reduced-price
According to the study, 97 percent of the largest public school districts
(those having more than 25,000 students) applied for E-Rate discounts; 74
percent of the smallest public school districts (those with less than 3,000
students) applied. Urban districts represent 33 percent of the nation's
students and received 49 percent of E-Rate district funds.
At Los Angeles Unified School District, for example, 82 percent to 89
percent of the cost for Internet connection is subsidized by a grant worth
about $229 million, said James Alther, an administrator for LAUSD's E-Rate
office. The school district will pay for the remaining installation costs
as well as electrical upgrades, computers and training.
Duncan Chaplin, one of the report's authors, said that the study is
one in a series commissioned by the Education Department to look at the
role of technology in education.
The report also found that:
* 70 percent of rural schools participated in the program in the first
year growing to 75 percent in the second year of the program.
* 91 percent of private schools that applied for E-Rate discounts were
funded, receiving a total of $111 million.
* The largest share of E-Rate funds 58 percent has gone to support
the acquisition of equipment and services for internal building connections,
with 34 percent used for telecommunications services and 8 percent for the
cost of Internet access.
The E-Rate, also known as the education rate, provides discounts of
20 percent to 90 percent on telecommunications services, Internet access
and internal connections to public and private schools and libraries.
The program dispenses $2.25 billion per year. An independent nonprofit
corporation established by the Federal Communications Commission administers
The effort is part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to provide
affordable, universal telecommunications services to schools and libraries,
particularly in rural or economically disadvantaged areas.