Bush blueprint alters E-Rate

President Bush, who has made education reform the top priority during his administration's first week, has proposed changes to education technology programs to provide more funding for schools and reduce the time and paperwork burden on them.

Bush's first legislative proposal, summarized in a blueprint called "No Child Left Behind," calls for allocating E-Rate program money through a funding formula instead of the current application process. Schools currently can apply online at www.sl.universalservice.org or through the mail.

E-Rate helps defray the costs of telecommunications and Internet access to schools and libraries. Under Bush's plan, schools also would be able to use E-Rate funds for software purchases, wiring and technology training for teachers.

E-Rate, created as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, provides discounts of 20 percent to 90 percent on Internet access and infrastructure via a $2.25 billion fund provided by the telecommunications industry.

Bush's blueprint also proposes combining technology programs into a "performance-based technology grant program that sends more money to schools."

"A single program will facilitate comprehensive and integrated education technology strategies that target the specific needs of individual schools," according to the proposal.

Other technology highlights from the proposal include:

    * Allowing schools to use funds to buy Internet filtering technology "to protect children from obscene and adult material."

    * Encouraging states to set performance goals to measure how well federal technology money is being used to improve student achievement.

    * Providing matching grants to establish community technology centers in high-poverty areas through the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Community Development Block Grant program.

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