eSN EXCLUSIVE: House Republicans craft bill to kill eRate

At least three members of the U.S. House of Representatives have announced their intention to kill the eRate program, which helps schools and libraries defray the costs of connecting to the internet.

On Jan. 26, freshman House member Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., and returning members Pete Sessions, R-Texas, and Ed Royce, R-Calif., sent a letter to their colleagues soliciting support for legislation being drafted by Tancredo and tentatively called the “eRate Termination Act.”

In the letter, the three congressmen described the eRate as a “backdoor tax” that isn’t necessary, because federal funding already exists to improve technology in schools.

“Our intention is to end the program,” Scott Slusher, Tancredo’s press secretary, told eSchool News. When asked why, Slusher said the congressman is “opposed to taxes–whether you call them fees, or access charges, or whatever.”

Slusher said the bill is still being drafted, but that it would be introduced “sooner rather than later.” Though he did not give any names, he said the congressmen were encouraged by other House members who have voiced their support as well.

The letter is sure to renew debate in Congress about whether the eRate should exist, and if so, how it should be paid for. Criticism of the program began last year when telecommunications companies, which subsidize the discounts through fees collected by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), started passing along the program’s cost to their consumers.

If not for impeachment . . .

Bryan Wilkes, Royce’s press secretary, said the congressman’s office has received “a huge amount of mail and eMail” from voters who are angry about the surcharges on their phone bills. “If it wasn’t for the impeachment hearings, this would be the dominant issue,” Wilkes said. “[Royce] is listening to his constituents.”

Surcharges on residential customers’ bills depend on the carrier, but generally cost about a dollar per line per month–though for business customers, the surcharges are higher. Only 19 cents of every dollar actually pays for the eRate, said FCC Chairman William Kennard; the rest supports high-cost, low-income phone customers under the traditional universal service program.

Another reason the congressmen believe the eRate isn’t necessary, Wilkes said, is a 1998 report from the General Accounting Office concluding that some $12 billion in federal money was available to schools for technology last year–though only $2.5 billion, which includes the eRate, was earmarked specifically for technology in K-12 schools, the report said.

The report, which was commissioned by the House Committee on Education and the Work Force and the Senate Commerce Committee to investigate what the committees termed duplicative sources of school technology funding, was released Sept. 15.

Finally, Wilkes said, the congressmen believe the FCC’s implementation of the eRate is unconstitutional because the agency is imposing a tax that only Congress has the authority to levy. Though the eRate was established by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the congressmen believe the FCC has exceeded the vision Congress had when it passed the legislation, Wilkes said.

A similar legal challenge to the eRate brought by GTE Communications Corp. is before the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. A ruling is expected this spring. Two other plaintiffs, BellSouth Corp. and SBC Communications Inc., have withdrawn their complaints, believing they can resolve their differences with the FCC out of court.

Deadline extended to April 6

Even as House Republicans were planning the eRate’s demise, the Schools and Libraries Division (SLD) of the Universal Service Administrative Co.–the federal agency that administers the program– announced it had reached the billion-dollar mark in issuing funds.

With the eighth wave of funding commitment letters issued Feb. 10, “We’ve rounded third and we’re headed for home,” said SLD president Kate Moore.

Acknowledging that nearly one-third of applicants still hadn’t received letters, the SLD extended the deadline for filing completed 1999 applications to 11:59 p.m. EST on April 6. In order to be considered in the window, schools must file a Form 470, wait 28 days, then file a Form 471 so their entire application is received no later than April 6.

An additional two to four waves of funding commitment letters need to be issued before 1998 funding is completed, Moore said. The agency’s goal is to get funding commitments into the hands of all remaining applicants in time for them to apply for 1999, she said.

Schools and Libraries Division (formerly Schools and Libraries Corp.)

Rep. Ed Royce

Rep. Pete Sessions

Federal Communications Commission


Technology still scares teachers

A startling new study shows that less than one-quarter of the teachers surveyed said they were prepared to use computers in their classrooms. The teachers who were surveyed said they weren’t ready to cope with technology as part of their curriculum, and education officials and advocates are calling for more training measures.

“Teacher education and professional development programs are not addressing the realities found in today’s classrooms,” said Education Secretary Richard W. Riley.

A department survey of 3,560 teachers in kindergarten through 12th grade classrooms found that only one out of five teachers felt “very well prepared” to use computers in their classrooms.

That’s about the same number as said they felt confident in teaching bilingual or special education children in their classrooms.

The survey, released Jan. 18, asked teachers about their college studies, professional certificates, on-the-job training and support from parents and colleagues.

The survey also showed that the way teachers are trained has a lot to do with how ready they feel to use what they’ve learned in the classroom. Nearly 80 percent of teachers reported having received training in technology. But just 20 percent of those who had been through some training felt very well prepared to use it in their classrooms.

The amount of time teachers spent on their training seems to be a significant factor in how prepared they feel. Teachers who participated for more than eight hours in technology training were three times more likely to say that it improved their teaching “a lot” than teachers who participated for only one to eight hours.

The survey illustrates the need to change how teachers are trained for changing classrooms, Riley said.

“One-shot workshops … carry little relevance to teachers’ work in the classroom,” Riley said. He said he will present details of President Clinton’s proposals for change in a March speech in Long Beach, Calif.

The study also looked at how teachers had been trained in college. Overall, 38 percent of the teachers had bachelor’s or master’s degrees in a specific field, 37 percent had majored in general education and 18 percent had degrees in such subjects as math education.

After graduation, they were more likely to be trained in state or district curricula (81 percent) than in special education (48 percent) or bilingual and diversity education (31 percent).

The department mailed out the surveys early last year; about 92 percent of recipients responded. The typical margin of error for the questions asked was plus or minus three percentage points.

Tougher teacher standards

In recent years, the focus has shifted from student standards to teacher standards. States such as Florida now have incentives for teachers seeking better credentials.

In recent weeks, Clinton proposed spending more than $245 million to hire new teachers, train teachers for impoverished school districts and recruit teachers for areas heavily populated by American Indians.

National Center for Education Statistics


Free PCs in exchange for ads prove popular, yet controversial

More than a million people wasted no time signing up when a company in Pasadena, Calif., called Free-PC announced it would give away 10,000 Pentium-II computers to customers willing to accept a constant display of advertising in the margin of the computer screen. Free-PC’s proposal is similar to that of ZapMe! Corp., which gives away 15 computers with satellite-based internet access to schools in exchange for advertising in the left-hand corner of the monitor.

Such offers mark the emergence of a business model that has privacy advocates concerned and school leaders debating the merits of accepting technology gifts that come with strings attached.

Unlike ZapMe!’s program, Free-PC’s offer targeted consumers, not schools. To qualify, candidates had to fill out an online profile to determine how desirable they would be to potential advertisers. The online form collected personal information such as telephone number, address, eMail, date of birth, household income, hobbies, and interests.

While ZapMe! doesn’t collect personal information in exchange for computer equipment, it does take into account a student’s grade level–supplied when the student logs onto the network–to dish out age-appropriate advertisements.

The concept of free computers presents an attractive offer for consumers–particularly for cash-strapped schools in search of technology. But despite the fact that advertising supports a host of free services already–including much of the internet–many educators argue that the business model employed by companies like Free-PC and ZapMe! should have no place in schools.

“The students are in school to get an education, not to be exploited for advertising purposes,” said Gary Marx, executive director of public relations for the American Association of School Administrators (AASA). “Whatever the medium, that’s the ethical approach that we need to take in our schools.”

Significant demand

Like Free-PC, ZapMe! has had an enthusiastic response to its offer. “Within the first 100 days, we received over 11,000 inquiries and 5,000 signed applications,” said Frank Vigil, ZapMe!’s president and chief operating officer. “This tells me that the demand for our service is significant.”

Already, ZapMe! has installed its “netspace” service in 65 schools. The company hopes to implement it in 2,500 schools by the end of this year.

Participating schools receive a satellite dish and server that are connected to the ZapMe! network through satellite signals and land-based lines. The schools also get a printer and 15 Pentium-II computers running Windows NT operating systems.

According to Vigil, the ZapMe! network is about much more than just free PCs. It also delivers high-speed (2 Mbps) multimedia educational content via satellite. Some of the content is supplied by other companies, and much is taken from the web. The content is selected and reviewed by ZapMe! editors and K-12 educators for its usefulness and appropriateness to the K-12 classroom, Vigil said.

In return for the ZapMe! service, the school must supply the power and space for the network, plus a standard phone line. Schools also have to sign a contract promising to use the network at least four hours per day, allow evening use of the computers for community service and training, and help select the ZapMe! content by making recommendations to the company.

ZapMe! is supported by corporate sponsors who pay the company to deliver their educational content and brand image. Sponsors’ corporate logos appear in the lower left-hand corner of the ZapMe! browser.

“There’s clearly a market need out there that we’re trying to fill,” Vigil said. He pointed to the huge funding gap that exists between most schools’ technology needs and the resources available to fill them. “ZapMe! is available to all students equally, so we can help narrow that gap,” he said.

Targeted ads

Even to casual observers, it’s clear that advertising already abounds on the web. In fact, advertising supports several outstanding web-based educational services that otherwise would cost money to access. But Marx and others draw a distinction between “incidental” and “targeted” advertising.

“If students are exposed to incidental advertising through browsing the web, that’s different,” he said. “But when it’s targeted–‘We’ll give you free computers if you’ll agree to give us a captive audience’–then it’s not just incidental.”

The kind of advertising that ZapMe! displays is called “brand imaging,” and it’s intended to develop brand recognition and loyalty among teens.

“We provide equipment and 10,000 of the best educational web sites at a price that schools can afford–no cost,” Vigil said. “Clearly, it’s not at no cost to ZapMe!…We believe we’re able to do it in a non-obtrusive manner that’s appropriate for an educational environment, and students appreciate that these companies are out there helping them learn, giving them these tools.”

The brand imaging always appears in the same place–the lower left-hand corner of the browser–so it doesn’t sneak up on students, Vigil said. Also, ZapMe! encourages sponsors to develop educational messages rather than straight sales pitches in their advertisements.

“We wouldn’t accept an ad for ‘burgers, fries, and Cokes for $1.99,’ for example,” Vigil said. “Instead, we might ask the sponsor to provide a message about the environment.”

According to the Center for Commercial Free Public Education (CCFPE), a nonprofit advocacy group based in Oakland, Calif., such advertising is even more insidious because it blurs the line between advertising and education, raising serious ethical questions.

But Ted Maddock, technology coordinator for Mt. Diablo High School in Concord, Calif., disagrees. Mt. Diablo has been using equipment provided by ZapMe! since May 1998, when the school agreed to beta test the network, and Maddock believes the ZapMe! ads are much more innocuous than the banner ads that appear on most commercial web sites.

“ZapMe! is controlling the content of its ads, so there’s no ‘bait and switch’ where clicking on a banner ad takes you someplace you shouldn’t be,” he said.

Besides, sheltering students from advertising isn’t the answer, Maddock said: “Part of our job is to teach them how to discern for themselves what is of value and what’s not.”

Economics a factor

If not for the offer of free computers and internet access, Maddock said, it’s unlikely that students at Mt. Diablo would have such easy access to technology. The school could not afford the equipment otherwise, he said.

“A lot of communities don’t want any ads in schools, and I can understand that,” Maddock said. “But most of our students don’t have access to computers outside of school, and to be honest, they tend to be focused on the learning that’s taking place, not the advertisements.”

Whether accepting technology gifts with strings attached is a good idea or not, it appears likely to continue as long as there are funding inequities among schools.

CCFPE, for example, points to a University of Massachusetts study showing that Channel One–which gives television sets to schools in exchange for broadcasting content that includes advertising–is disproportionately shown in low-income schools.


Elite school technology fundraisers to gather in San Diego April 29-30

The nation’s most successful school fundraisers–educators who, based on past attendance, individually have raised an average of $3.6 million for school technology and are going for $7 million–are coming together in San Diego at the end of April. The occasion for the get-together is the Grants & Funding for School Technology (G&F) conference presented by eSchool News and co-sponsored by Teacher Universe.

If past attendance is a guide, some of the nation’s most effective school fundraisers will be meeting at San Diego’s Wyndham Emerald Plaza Hotel to swap strategies, mingle with leading grantgivers, and learn how to raise even more money for their schools’ technology programs.

According to research, educators who attended last year’s G&F conference have collectively raised $7 billion for schools. Roughly one-fourth of all attendees individually have raised a lifetime amount between $2 million and $10 million.

What these numbers show, according to Gregg W. Downey, editor and publisher of eSchool News and one of the organizers of the conference, is that school technology leaders who come to the event are a powerful group looking to take their fundraising efforts to an even higher level.

“They’ve done what they can with the resources at hand,” Downey said, “and it’s significant. Now it’s time to bring their skills–and their fundraising potential–to the next level. But not all school leaders know how to do that, which is where we come in.”

It’s in the network

The next step, Downey said, is to leverage even more dollars for school technology by meeting face-to-face with key players in foundations and to network with other successful fundraisers.

“They’ve got to get out there and meet the people who can make that happen–the grantsmakers themselves, and other successful school leaders,” Downey said. “And those are exactly the kind of speakers and attendees who will be at our conference.”

That’s why April’s G&F conference will feature school leaders who have raised hundreds of millions of dollars for infrastructure, teacher training, and school networking projects. Some of those speakers will include:

• Dr. Gary Carnow, who has raised over $30 million in grants. Carnow, a former teacher, is the director of technology and information services for the Alhambra, Calif., School District and the moderator of Scholastic Network’s Grant Center.

• Peggy Meathenia, from the Lufkin, Texas, Independent School District, who raised more than $14 million for school technology in five years. While at a smaller school district in east Texas, she was able to take a $25,000 distance learning grant and parlay it into a $7 million project.

• Dr. Michael V. Gershowitz, who has written 150 winning proposals totaling $80 million, including 28 federal and state distance learning grants, 22 of which were funded. He also wrote one of the 19 Technology Innovation Challenge Grants that were funded in 1997, out of a field of 679 applications.

• Phillip Hibbert, the first African-American and the youngest person appointed to serve as Assistant Superintendent in the Cobb County, Ga., School District, credited with designing and building one of the largest educational networks of its kind–the Cobb Educational Network–funded at $40 million.

• Dr. Sandra Becker, whose district’s record of its technology implementation is included in the 1999 Permanent Research Collection of the ComputerWorld Smithsonian Innovation web site.

Conference attendees will also be able to network with key grantgivers in federal programs and corporate foundations.

Mike Haney from the National Science Foundation and Cheryl Garnette from the U.S. Department of Education will present sessions on funding initiatives–and offer insight into what their departments will be looking for in grant applications–for the coming school year.

Marilyn Reznick of The AT&T Foundation, C.J. Van Pelt from Cisco Systems Foundation, and Michele Cavataio from The AOL Foundation will discuss how schools can approach corporate partners to fund their school technology initiatives.

Conference attendees will also hear from JDL Technologies’ Allen Schmeider, vice president for K-12WORLD programs, who will present a session on how to land major federal technology funds. Dr. Schmeider played a key role in the implementation of the Technology Innovation Challenge Grants and the Technology Literacy Challenge Fund. He also served as technology director for the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program.

The conference receives support from Innovative Communications Inc., America Online, Sphere Communications, and 3Com, which is sponsoring the General Session on the eRate.


Grants: Opportunities, Deadlines and Awards


New Millennium Preparation

This National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) program is designed to strengthen schools’ and teachers’ competence and creativity with new humanities materials and technologies. The initiative consists of two types of grants: one for planning and another for implementation. Planning grants will be awarded for up to $30,000 for a six to nine-month period. Implementation grants of between $200,000 and $400,000 are for a period of two years. Middle schools and high schools may apply.

Deadline: April 1

(202) 606-8400


Teacher Enhancement

This National Science Foundation (NSF) grant supports professional development projects in the context of improving science, math, and technology education. One of the program’s goals is to strengthen the teacher workforce by increasing the understanding and use of effective educational technologies. Last year, the program awarded grants of up to $1.2 million per year for 3-5 years. K-12 districts are most likely to receive funding in two categories: Local Systemic Change and Educational Leadership.

Deadline: April 1

(703) 306-1613

Improving Teacher


The goal of this U.S. Department of Education (ED) grant is to foster relationships between teacher preparation institutions, colleges of arts and sciences, and local school districts in high-need areas. The program aims to strengthen teacher education through a range of activities, including preparing teachers to use technology and to work effectively with diverse students. The deadline indicated is for a preliminary application, which is required. ED anticipates awarding 15-20 grants ranging from $500,000 to $3.5 million per year, with an average award of approximately $2 million. Projects will be funded for up to five years. For more information, contact Louis Venuto at (202) 708-8847 or Vicki Payne at (202) 260-3291.

Deadline: April 2


Humanities Focus Grants

NEH provides these grants of $10,000 to $25,000 for teams of faculty to expand their knowledge of humanities topics and integrate what they’ve learned into their teaching. The grants may be used to explore ways of using technology to teach the humanities, for example, and could fund release time, cooperative ventures, investigation of model programs, or logistical support.

Deadline: April 15

(202) 606-8400

Advanced Technological Education (ATE)

This NSF program promotes the exemplary education of technicians at the two-year college level and quality technological preparation at the secondary level. Projects require partnerships of two-year colleges with four-year colleges and universities, secondary schools, businesses, and/or government agencies. The program supports instructional materials development, professional development for faculty and teachers, technical experiences for students and teachers, and/or instrumentation and laboratory improvement. The deadline indicated is for a required preliminary proposal, with a final proposals due October 15.

Deadline: April 15

(703) 306-1620



Program for Gender Equity in Science, Math, Engineering, and Technology (SMET)

The purpose of this NSF grant is to raise the interest and achievement of girls and women in SMET education. Proposals are being accepted under the category Small Experimental Projects. These projects address critical transition points that facilitate or hinder the successful participation of girls in SMET education. They are typically small, focused projects involving only one or a few institutions to develop or test an innovative approach to a problem area. Up to $100,000 for up to 18 months is available for each successful project.

Deadline: May 1

(703) 306-1636

Instructional Materials Development

This NSF program supports the development of instructional materials and assessment tools to improve science, math, and technology education for all K-12 students. Projects can include the revision of proven materials or the development of new ones. They can address the needs of a single grade or many grade levels. The deadline indicated is for a required preliminary proposal, with a final proposal due August 15.

Deadline: May 1

(703) 306-1614


Managing Information with Rural America (MIRA)

The Community Technology Centers’ Network (CTCNet) and the Civil Rights Forum are distributing funds under the Managing Information with Rural America (MIRA) initiative. MIRA grants, funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, are for community center-based projects that will help teach people in rural areas how to use new techlonogies–preferably in an environment that brings students and other participants that have some previous technology experience together with those that are disenfranchised. Schools or districts in rural areas may apply if they have an existing community technology program. Awards are distributed periodically and range from $1,000 to $5,000.

Deadline: May 7

(888) 264-6662

Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to Use Technology

This new ED program’s goal is to help prepare future teachers to use modern learning technologies. School districts are eligible to apply as collaborating partners with higher education faculty and teacher education students. Such teams of faculty, teachers, and students–assisted by professional associations, foundations, and business partners–could use funds to adapt or create technology-rich content and instructional strategies that would be mastered by the future teachers of the group. The program’s director, Tom Carroll, is the former director for technology planning and evaluation for the Schools and Libraries Division of the Universal Service Administrative Co., the group that administers the eRate.

Deadline: May 24



Packard Foundation Education Grants

This grant program of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation supports reading, math and science, school renewal, and other education initiatives. Math and science grants have been used for a range of technology-related initiatives, such as the construction of a math technology lab and to support a high school robotics team. Grants are available nationally, but the foundation places a particular emphasis on school districts in northern California. The Packard Foundation doled out over $9 million in education grants in 1997. The board of directors accepts proposal on a quarterly schedule, with the next deadline indicated below.

Deadline: June 15

(650) 948-7658



U.S. West Foundation Community Outreach

The U.S. West Foundation is seeking proposals for using technology to improve education and provide equity for all students. The foundation is particularly interested in developing partnerships between universities and K-12 educators or between businesses, social service agencies, and school districts. Projects must demonstrate how technology will assist a school system in meeting its mission and achieving program objectives. Proposals that simply request hardware or software will not be considered without a well-developed plan on how the technology will be used. Most grants are less than $10,000. Application are accepted from within the U.S. West service area, which includes Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

Deadline: April 1

(800) 843-3383

Arts Education @Work Grants

With financial help from the GE Fund, the National Foundation for the Improvement of Education (NFIE) is offering a regional grants program to support the development of innovative arts curricula that make effective use of new technologies. The program encourages public high school teachers, especially arts specialists, to collaborate with expert technology-using teachers and other partners to develop innovative arts curricula to prepare students for emerging employment opportunities in the arts. Applicants must be a public high school teacher in the states of Alabama, Georgia, Massachusetts, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, or South Carolina. The grant amount is $5,000, and NFIE will award up to seven grants in 1999. Funds may be used for hardware, software, human resources, or other costs directly related to helping teachers acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to develop a new technology/arts curriculum.

Deadline: April 3

(202) 822-7840

NextDay Teacher Innovation Grants

Sponsored by the Michigan Jobs Commission and open to teams of Michigan educators, this program seeks innovative uses of existing technologies to improve student learning. Teams must have at least three members, at least one of whom is a K-12 teacher. The proposed project must target K-12 teachers or students in one of these categories: Student-Based Projects, Professional Development, or Online Content Development. Up to $10,000 will be awarded for each project, $2,500 of which may be spent on technology. Last year, 118 teachers (out of 400 applicants) received grants totaling more than $600,000. The entire application process is conducted online.

Deadline: April 15

(517) 373-9808

Fax Grants

Philanthropic Ventures Foundation provides small “immediate response” grants to teachers in San Mateo County, Calif. Teachers fax their proposal to the foundation and typically receive a check within a day or two. The foundation has given away $350,000 worth of fax grants to 700 teachers over the last three years. Books, field trips, and equipment purchases–including technology equipment–are among some of the possible uses for funds.

(510) 645-1890

First for Education Grants

Carolina First Corp. has established the Carolina First for Education Foundation with a $12.6 million endowment. The foundation will provide education and community-based grants to teachers and public schools in South Carolina for projects that will help bring the state to the educational forefront, including grants for technology initiatives such as purchasing computers. All grants will be awarded based on evaluation of a written application. For an application form, write to the Carolina First For Education Foundation, P.O. Box 1029, Greenville, SC 29602.

(864) 255-4780

K-12 World Server Grant

NEC Computer Systems Division and JDL Technologies have teamed up to offer 20 Express5800 K-12 World Internet Access Servers through a grant program open exclusively to schools. The grants include a complete solution featuring NEC Express5800 server hardware, JDL’s K-12 World CyberLibrary Server software with SmartFilter option, one day of on-site installation, one year of monthly SmartFilter updates, and one year of toll-free support. Contact: JDL Technologies, 5555 West 78th Street, Suite E, Edina, MN 55349-2702; fax (612) 946-1835; eMail

Deadline: April 30

(800) 535-3969

SolidWorks High School Grant Program

SolidWorks Corp., a leading provider of 3-D computer-aided design (CAD) software, will award 200 licenses of its software to qualifying high schools that have instructional CAD programs. The licensing package includes SolidWorks 98Plus, a Windows-based 3-D mechanical design product; PhotoWorks, an integrated rendering application; a set of SolidWorks 98Plus training manuals; and one year of educational subscription service and support from an authorized SolidWorks reseller. Complete information and an application form are available on the company’s web site.

Deadline: May 31

(800) 693-9000

Electric Communities Software Donation

Electric Communities will donate up to $150 million worth of its Palace server software free to individual educators, schools, and other nonprofit organizations over the next two years. The software can be used to create visual communities on the internet for students, teachers, and administrators. Educators can use The Palace to create virtual environments–such as auditoriums, campuses, national monuments, or historical sites–to hold online courses or to exchange information with other schools. Many colleges and universities currently use the software for distance learning and online tutoring. To request a free copy of the software, visit the Electric Communities web site.

(408) 342-9500

Global Schoolhouse Software Offer

The Global SchoolNet Foundation (GSN), a nonprofit public service corporation, is offering free software to members of its Global Schoolhouse, which provides meaningful opportunities for using the internet to improve teaching and learning. Joining the Global Schoolhouse is free, and members are eligible to receive unlimited copies of selected software titles by paying only the cost of shipping and handling. According to GSN, new titles are available each month. February’s titles included “Reader Rabbit: Math Journey,” “Success Builder: Algebra,” and “Compton’s Complete Reference Collection.”

(760) 721-2972


MAGIX Software Grant

MAGIX Entertainment Corp. is offering its MAGIX Music Maker and Music Studio software free of charge to any interested high schools. The software allows students to compose, arrange, mix, and record their own musical creations on a computer using different genres of royalty-free music samples. The free CD-ROM contains software retailing at more than $100.

(888) 866-2449

Milken Educator Virtual Workspace

The Milken Educator Virtual Workspace (MEVW), a product of the Milken Family Foundation, is a collaborative software program that allows you to use the web to create and participate in online learning communities. Previously available only to recipients of the foundation’s National Educator Award for use in distance education and professional development projects, MEVW is now free to anyone who submits an educational project proposal and obtains the foundation’s approval. MEVW requires a Netscape Navigator 4.0 or Internet Explorer 4.0 or higher web browser.

(310) 998-2800

NewDeal Foundation Discovery Media Labs

The NewDeal Foundation makes grants of stand-alone and networked Discovery Media Labs to approved schools and other nonprofit organizations. The grants cover computer network and internet hardware and a full suite of system, networking, communications, and application software. The Discovery Media Labs are preconfigured and shipped ready for immediate setup and use. In addition to supporting basic office functions, the labs also aid in desktop publishing, visual programming, web site creation, digital imaging and sound, and more. Grants are intended to jump-start or supplement computer and internet literacy programs and are awarded on a needs-first basis.

(617) 661-6094

$9.8 million from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation

For developing professional-technical academies, $9.8 million to four Idaho organizations representing 30 school districts in the state. The Albertson Foundation awarded three-year grants to three of the organizations, including $4.8 million to the Advanced Regional Technical Coalition, $2.5 million to the Canyon Owyhee School Service Agency, and $1.8 million to the Cassia Regional Technical Center. The foundation also awarded a one-year $729,500 grant to the Riverbend school.

(208) 424-2600

$75,000 in cash and software from Microsoft Corp.

For bringing computer equipment to classrooms, 100 recycled computers plus $75,000 in cash and software to two Washington, D.C., schools and four area nonprofit organizations. The donation was made in cooperation with Maryland-based Lazarus Foundation, which provides recycled computer equipment to D.C. and Baltimore area schools, libraries, and other nonprofit groups. Lazarus has donated 1,800 computers to schools in the D.C.-Baltimore region over the past six years. The schools receiving donations from Microsoft were Bowen Elementary and Walker Jones Elementary.

$11,000 in cash and equipment

from Motorola

For its School Spirit Awards contest, $1,000 in cash plus 12 Spirit Professional Two-Way Radios to two grand prize winners, plus four radios each to four runners up. This national competition recognizes primary and secondary schools in the U.S. that implement programs to streamline school operations and help provide an overall safer environment for students.

(800) 448-6686


Grantmaker Profile: Toshiba America Foundation

Toshiba America Foundation

Contact: Program Officer

1251 Avenue of the Americas

Suite 4100

New York, NY 10020

Tel: (212) 596-0600

Fax: (212) 221-0973


With an annual grantmaking budget of $450,000, the Toshiba America Foundation (TAF) helps schools and districts fund programs, projects, and activities which have the potential to improve classroom teaching and learning of science, mathematics, and technology.

The foundation welcomes applications from across the U.S., though TAF does have a special interest in funding projects in communities where it has a corporate presence.

The foundation exclusively targets middle and high schools, where it looks for projects that are student-focused. Specifically, Toshiba seeks projects which directly benefit students as a result of teacher-led classroom experiences. Educators are encouraged to implement or adapt existing programs with their grants as opposed to creating new ones.

TAF does not contribute to general operations, capital projects, endowments, conferences, independent studies, fundraising events, or other such activities–nor does it provide grants for computer hardware, except if needs are proven to be extreme. Curriculum inventions, teacher training, salaries, facility maintenance, textbooks, creation of video or computer materials, and education research are also excluded. Summer projects will not be considered unless they are proven to be an integral part of the academic year.

The foundation reviews hundreds of applications each year and says it typically approves funding for between 10 and 15 percent of the proposals it receives. For small grants (under $5,000), the average award is $4,500, while larger, more carefully scrutinized grants average $9,000.

For grants of less than $5,000, Toshiba accepts applications throughout the year, with the exception of the months of March and September. There are no deadlines for submission of proposals at this level.

For grants in excess of $5,000, applications are accepted twice yearly, with deadlines set on the first working day in February for board consideration in March or the first working day in August for consideration in September.

Examples of projects funded

Several schools have used technology as the backbone for their projects.

Cheltenham High School in Wyncote, Penn., for example, was awarded $7,200 from TAF to beef up the school’s science curriculum. The project has impacted 300 tenth-grade biology students by integrating the use of software, interactive probeware, and CD-ROMs, giving students an opportunity to engage in a range of experimental activities. For instance, biology students used computer simulation to age themselves and to predict the changes that will occur.

Stratford High School in Houston, Texas, received $8,500 for a project that sought to apply mathematics to real life situations. The project, which affected 300 students, incorporated spreadsheets and ledger systems to set up and calculate a loan repayment schedule and to investigate the effects of different interest rates and monthly payments using interactive software and a computer projector.

Blacklick Valley Junior-Senior High School in Nanty Glo, Penn., secured $14,700 to supplement science class experiments on topics such as acid rain deposition, solar radiation, human circulatory and transport systems, and Newton’s Laws with hands-on activities that involve the measurement of real-life systems using digital and analog sensors connected to computers through an interface. This project impacted 426 students in grades 7-12.

Wayne Community Schools in Wayne, Neb., got $4,500 for 440 students to study the fundamentals of mathematics, applied math, pre-algebra, beginning and intermediate algebra under the tutelage of a teacher and para-professional who will individualize instruction for each child using software that provides for self-pacing and self-analysis.

Guidelines for proposals

Because the foundation believes that classroom instructors are central to improvements in science and mathematics education, teachers must be involved in the planning of projects. Involved teachers should be prepared to initiate improvements immediately upon receipt of funding.

TAF asks that proposals conform to the specific format that follows:

• Section 1. Objectives/Outcomes

Exactly what student learning objectives will you reach by conducting the proposed project? These objectives should be realistic, directly related to the project, measurable, and attainable within the timeframe of the project.

• Section 2. Methods/Strategies

Describe the methods, materials, and strategies that you plan to use to produce your desired outcome. What exactly do you want to do with or for your students to produce the outcome you desire? Samples of lesson plans or other relative information are encouraged.

• Section 3. Discussion of Alternatives

Provide other examples of methods or strategies that could accomplish your desired outcome and explain why you rejected them.

• Section 4. Project Management

List and describe activities that will have to be managed by you and/or others to ensure that the project will operate successfully. This section should also address the purchasing process if materials are needed, as well as concerns regarding safety and security.

• Section 5. Budget

Provide a cost estimate for each item for which you are seeking funds, based on information obtained from vendors, catalogs, salespeople, etc.

• Section 6. Evaluation

Include plans for how you will ensure that you are gathering the data needed to be able to later complete a final report–including qualitative and quantitative data–upon completion of the project.

• Section 7. Eligibility

Public schools must provide evidence from a relevant school official that your institution is recognized by an appropriate local or state agency. TAF will accept a state tax exemption certificate as proof of eligibility.

TAF asks that you write a summary of your proposal, to be used as a cover page. Mail three copies of the completed application along with an official letter of submittal on school letterhead to the foundation.


Funding Toolbox: What’s in a name? Plenty, when there’s money involved

When I was a little girl, my father told me a joke that went like this: When is a door not a door? When it is ajar! I often think of this joke when trying to explain to someone what a “grant” is.

What do we mean when we use the term “grant?” In their book Finding Funding, authors Ernest Brewer, Charles Achilles, and Jay Fuhriman define a grant as “an award of money or direct assistance to perform an activity or projects whose outcome is seen as less certain than that from a contract, with expected results described in general terms. Applications can be submitted without having been solicited (an unsolicited proposal) or through a program announcement (Request for Application or Request for Proposal).”

The way money is awarded–where it comes from, where it’s going, and why it’s going where it’s going–will all come to bear on which program you’ll choose to expend your energy. Choose wisely! There’s nothing more frustrating that finding out after days of toil that you’ve been barking up the wrong (money) tree.

Public or private?

Those just starting the grantseeking process should understand that grants come from two sources, the public sector and the private sector. The public sector usually refers to city, county, state, and federal government. For some grant programs, like the U.S. Department of Education (ED)’s Technology Innovation Challenge Grants or the Commerce Department’s Telecommunications Information Infrastructure Assistance Program, applicants submit proposals directly to the federal government.

Other grant programs, such as the Technology Literacy Challenge Fund, are federal dollars which are passed to the states and administered by the state government. The federal government (ED, in this case) provides guidelines that each state must follow; however, the actual competition and selection of grantees is left up to each state. Consequently, each state’s program and application will look different, even though technically each applicant is vying for the same program.

The private sector refers to philanthropic foundations which are usually started by families and/or corporations. These foundations usually have an interest in a special population (such as at-risk youth) and/or a particular field (such as the arts or technology).

Reach and significance

Some foundations only fund programs that are of “national significance.” These are projects with the potential to have an impact on a large number of students and/or teachers.

In contrast, community foundations often will only accept grant proposals from the specific geographic area or community where the foundation office is located. This geographic preference can also be found in corporate grant programs. You will find that some larger corporations will only fund projects in communities where they have local plants.

Generally, grants are classified as being competitive or noncompetitive. Competitive proposals usually require a grant writer to put together a narrative that describes the project in great detail, with sections covering need, goals, objectives, personnel, evaluation, and a budget. Noncompetitive proposals usually require a grant writer to complete an application form with program descriptions.

Usually in noncompetitive proposals, applicants will know in advance the amount of money they are eligible to apply for. In a competitive grant, an applicant is requesting an amount equal to the cost of carrying out the project.

What will you do with your grant?

Once you understand these distinctions, you’re ready to move on to the different kinds of competitive (and in some rare cases, noncompetitive) grants that are available. They are: planning grants, implementation grants, dissemination grants, and products/services grants.

Planning grants are available to fund projects that require an initial planning period, usually twelve months, before being implemented. In these types of grants, applicants show the process that will be followed leading up to the implementation of the project and can ask for the costs associated with this process, such as consultant fees, data collection, printing (if a summary document will be produced), and staff time.

Implementation grants usually follow planning grants and fund the actual start-up of the project. These grants can be multi-year grants.

It’s important to note, however, that just because you get a planning grant, you should never assume that you’ll automatically get the implementation grant. In most cases, you must apply for the implementation grant and go through another review process. A new set of reviewers can decide to deny you implementation funds for a variety of reasons.

The purpose of dissemination grants, as the name implies, is to disseminate information about a project–how it was carried out, how goals and objectives were achieved, what obstacles were overcome. Usually dissemination grants fund public-relation type activities such as advertising, presenting papers and/or sessions at conferences, posting a web site about the project, etc. It is important to understand that dissemination grants are awarded to projects that already have been completed.

The final classification is program/services grants. These are grants where the funded applicants receive either products or services rather than a monetary award. Usually these grant programs are offered by vendors, and applicants must show in their proposals how specific products available from the vendor or services provided by the vendor will play a crucial role in the implementation of the project.

As you can see, grants come in all shapes and all sizes. Savvy grantseekers will become familiar with all of these classifications as they embark on their journey to find funding for specific technology projects. Knowing these classifications will help expand the base of potential funding sources. Good luck!


U.S. mulls appeal of porn law ruling: Eleventh-hour injunction against child protection law might spur full-blown trial

In the wake of a federal judge’s decision to halt a federal law aimed at protecting children from online pornography, lawyers for the U.S. Justice Department were considering whether to appeal or ask for a full-blown trial.

U.S. District Judge Lowell A. Reed issued a preliminary injunction Feb. 1 to continue blocking enforcement of the Child Online Protection Act (COPA) just six hours before the measure was to take effect.

The injunction shields web site operators from prosecution under the law. It also paves the way for a full trial this spring, unless the Justice Department decides to appeal Reed’s decision.

At press time, Justice Department officials were reviewing the decision to determine their next move. The law’s lead sponsors, however, urged the department to continue its defense through the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“I look forward to a favorable judgment at the appellate level–a day that will be celebrated by millions of parents across the nation,” said Rep. James C. Greenwood, R-Pa., who co-sponsored the law.

Plaintiffs in the case, meanwhile, hailed the decision as a sign they are likely to prevail wherever the case ends up next.

“We’re thrilled that the judge has realized at this stage that our clients have some very credible fears,” American Civil Liberties Union spokeswoman Emily Whitfield said.

Chilling effect

In issuing his injunction, Reed said the law could have the “chilling effect” of hindering constitutionally protected speech.

“While the public certainly has an interest in protecting its minors, the public interest is not served by the enforcement of an unconstitutional law,” he wrote in his decision.

The ACLU had filed suit against the law on behalf of 17 clients. One of the clients’ arguments was that their fears of prosecution under the law would result in self-censorship.

Despite expressing “personal regret” that his decision would “delay once again the careful protection of our children,” Reed concluded, “Such fears are reasonable given the breadth of the statute.”

Harmful to minors

The law, the second major effort by Congress to protect children on the internet, would require commercial web sites to collect a credit card number or some other access code as proof of age before allowing internet users to view online material “harmful to minors.”

Violators would face penalties of up to six months in jail and $150,000 per day in fines.

Supporters say the measure, signed by President Clinton in October, is a sensible way to keep internet pornography away from children. Unlike the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which the Supreme Court struck down, the new law applies only to commercial web sites.

Brown paper wrapper

Reed had temporarily blocked enforcement of the law in November. In a six-day hearing before Reed in January, the Justice Department argued that the law would act as a “brown paper wrapper” protecting children from pornographic material.

The government also maintained that requiring web sites to install checkpoint areas in front of pornographic material would be easy and inexpensive and would not hurt their businesses.

“We’re disappointed,” said J. Robert Flores, senior counsel for the National Law Center for Children and Families. “Once again, children and families are left entirely on their own to protect themselves from the pornography industry.”

The ACLU, however, argued that the law violates the First Amendment’s free speech guarantee and could be used to unfairly prosecute gays and lesbians, AIDS activists, or doctors distributing gynecological information.

The ACLU also said checkpoints could be costly and would deter people from visiting affected web sites, putting some out of business.

American Civil Liberties Union

U.S. Justice Department

Rep. James C. Greenwood


From the Publisher: TEOOWAWKI to the max

In certain internet circles, the perils posed by the dawning of a new millennium, especially the disorder associated with those loudly heralded Y2K computer failures, are whimsically referred to as TEOOWAWKI — i.e., The End Of Our World As We Know It.

The designation seems intended to serve as a talisman, expected to ward off a looming disaster by mocking it. TEOOWAWKI is perhaps a variation on the epithets scrawled across the plywood hammered up to protect the windows from a hurricane.

Now, it turns out that Y2K is only the beginning.

Consider the event known as the Solar Maximum. Later this year, energy activity on the sun is expected to begin building toward the peak of the sun’s 11-year cycle. As the largest particle accelerator in our corner of the cosmos, the sun throws out solar flares that release as much energy as several billion tons of TNT.

Believe it or not, the celestial fireworks are expected to reach their zenith early in the year 2000, just as we’re all reeling from Y2K.

Violent geomagnetic storms on the sun in the coming months are expected to trigger interruptions to satellite-based broadcasting, telephone, paging, and global-positioning services, according to scientists from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

These cyclical solar eruptions are nothing new, but the effects of the Y2K Solar Maximum are expected to wreak much more havoc this time around, thanks to our surging reliance on space-based communications.

And if for some reason you think education will be immune to the ravages of the Solar Maximum, you haven’t read this month’s “eSN Special Report”: Connectivity–Beyond the Promised LAN, beginning on page 25. As that roundup shows conclusively, schools from coast to coast increasingly depend on reliable electronic communications.

The “Special Report” and half a dozen other stories in this issue underscore how much more obviously everything is interconnected now. That, in turn, shows how much more we all need to keep track of.

It used to be you could tell all you needed to know about conditions by consulting the weather rock. If it was wet, you knew to take an umbrella. Now comes the bittersweet realization that we might actually need a solar weather report to go about our daily lives. Maybe that’s what TEOOWAWKI really means.

But just as progress can sometimes slow you down, the end of something always brings a beginning.

And in this season of relentless change, here’s a constant for you: At eSchool News, we’ll keep doing all we can to give you the news and information you need to navigate safely through this brave new world . . . even if those global-positioning satellites do go down.


Sen. McCain resurrects push for internet content filters: Children’s Internet Protection Act would require schools to install filtering devices to get eRate funds

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has reintroduced a bill that would require schools and libraries receiving eRate discounts to install filtering software on their computers. The bill–which is nearly identical to last year’s Internet School Filtering Act, a measure that failed to gain passage–is sure to rekindle the debate about how best to shield children from harmful material on the internet.

Introduced Jan. 19, Senate bill S. 97, the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), was cosponsored by Sen. Fritz Hollings, D-S.C. Hollings is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee, which McCain chairs.

The bill aims to protect kids from sexually explicit material on the web. To be eligible for the eRate, which gives discounts on telecommunications services, schools would have to certify with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that they are using or will use a filtering system on all computers with internet access.

“Web surfers using seemingly innocuous terms while searching the world wide web for educational purposes can inadvertently run into adult sites,” McCain said in a statement. “If schools and libraries accept these federally provided subsidies for internet access, they have an absolute responsibility to their communities to [ensure] that children are protected from online content that can harm them.”

Schools and libraries already approved for the eRate also would have to install filters, because the measure would apply retroactively, said Commerce Committee spokeswoman Pia Pialorsi. The bill would require no specific filtering technology, leaving it to local school and library officials to decide which to use.

Closing the loopholes

Last year’s measure, the Internet School Filtering Act, passed in committee but failed to reach a vote on the Senate floor. Pialorsi said the new bill has a better chance of passing, largely because changes to its language purportedly address its critics’ free-speech concerns.

It gives more direction and closes a loophole, she said, by specifying that schools need only block access to material that is “harmful to minors,” the legal definition of unprotected speech.

The new bill also has been tailored to take into account a federal judge’s ruling. Last November, U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema ruled that the Loudoun County, Virginia, public library system could not constitutionally filter internet access for all its patrons. CIPA would require libraries to install filters on at least one computer that could be used by minors.

McCain also tried to distance his bill from the controversy surrounding the similarly named Child Online Protection Act (COPA), which is being contested in court. COPA, which Congress passed last year, would require operators of commercial web sites that publish material deemed “harmful to minors” to verify users’ ages or face fines and imprisonment.

Unfunded mandate

For some critics, the real focus of concern isn’t free speech, but money.

Requiring schools to install filters without giving them the means would represent “a serious cost consideration for school districts,” said Kari Arfstrom, legislative specialist for the American Association of School Administrators (AASA).

McCain’s statement says filtering technology is eligible for subsidy under the eRate program.

Not so, said a representative of the Schools and Libraries Division of the Universal Service Administrative Co. (SLD; formerly known as the Schools and Libraries Corp.), the agency that administers the eRate.

Sen. John McCain

Sen. Fritz Hollings

Text of S.97, the Children’s Internet Protection Act (in PDF format)

American Association of School Administrators

Schools and Libraries Division