Clinton calls for more tech funding

President Clinton has announced plans to double funding for after-school programs and training new teachers on how to integrate technology into the classroom. The president also wants to expand tax incentives for private-sector computer donations and sponsorships for schools.

The initiatives mark the highlights of the president’s fiscal year 2001 budget, released in February. All told, the largest education budget in the nation’s history requests some $16.2 billion for programs that could impact school technology, including $903 million for technology-specific programs.

As might be expected, reaction from Republicans in Congress to the president’s budget proposals was mixed.

“Technology is something we’ll be dealing with in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act later this year,” said Dan Lara, press secretary for the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, which is chaired by Rep. Bill Goodling, R-Pa.

“For some members, it will be a question of funding, and for others it will be a question of whether [decisions about] these programs are best left to local school districts,” Lara said.

Among other initiatives, the proposed budget would provide $150 million to ensure that new teachers entering the workforce are technology-literate and know how to use technology as an effective teaching resource.

“Connecting classrooms and libraries to the internet is crucial, but it’s just a start,” Clinton said. “My budget ensures that all new teachers are trained to teach 21st century skills.”

The $150 million would double the existing budget for the U.S. Department of Education’s Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to Use Technology program, which was funded at $75 million in fiscal years 1999 and 2000.

Last year, 225 grants were awarded to consortia of universities, teachers’ colleges, and K-12 schools or districts under the Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers program, each at more than $200,000 per year. The Department of Education (ED) is accepting applications for this year’s program through March 7.

“If we don’t improve the preparation of teachers now, it’s such a waste,” said Linda Roberts, director of ED’s Office of Educational Technology, in an interview with eSchool News. “It easily undermines the investments we are making.

“These teachers will be working with students who expect to use technology,” Roberts added. “It is imperative that these teachers remain ahead of the curve instead of behind it.”

She said it is especially important to begin training teachers to use technology now, because over the next ten years K-12 schools will need to hire two million new teachers to fill vacancies left by retiring teachers and to accommodate increasing student populations.

Rob Schleck, principal on special assignment from the A. E. Burdick School in Milwaukee, said he noticed new teachers and student teachers working in his school “lacked a real sense of how to use the internet in the classroom.”

His school struggled for two or three years and spent a lot of money to develop effective technology training for its teachers, he said: “It’s a great idea to put ten computers in a classroom, but it’s of no use if they are not being used.”

The president also requested a $547 million increase for ED’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which would double its funding to a whopping $1 billion. With this new support, the program will be able to reach nearly 2.5 million children, ED said.

Now in its third year, the program will award $454 million to schools and communities in 2000, with an average award of $125,000 to support each center. The program distributed $200 million last year and $40 million in 1998. Applications for the latest round of grants are due March 20.

The program is open to rural and inner-city public schools and consortia to help them plan, implement, or expand after-hours, in-school projects that benefit the educational, social, cultural, and recreational needs of the community. Funds can be used to purchase technology, because technology-based learning is among the list of supported after-school activities.

Tax incentives

In addition to increasing funding for teacher training and after-school programs, Clinton has proposed $2 billion in tax incentives over the next ten years for private sector computer donations or sponsorships to schools, public libraries, and community technology centers.

The tax breaks are designed to encourage companies to make charitable contributions to schools, libraries, and technology centers for the purpose of narrowing the “digital divide.”

The current law, which expires in 2000, applies only to computer donations made to schools. The president’s proposal would extend this tax incentive to June 30, 2004 and expand it to include donations made to public libraries and community technology centers in Empowerment Zones, Enterprise Communities, and high-poverty areas.

Up to $20 million a year in tax credits would be set aside for companies that agree to sponsor schools, libraries, and community technology centers located in Empowerment Zones and Enterprise Communities.

The $2 billion in tax incentives also includes money for businesses that offer basic technology training to their employees to help them succeed in the modern workplace.

Schleck said he has had both positive and negative experiences with receiving donated computers.

“It is really nice having machines donated to us, but frequently they were slow machines with old software,” he said. “Often, the machines were obsolete.”

Other highlights

Other highlights of the Clinton administration’s proposed FY 2001 budget include:

• $12.3 billion in School Modernization funds: $11 billion would be set aside in 2001 (and another $11 billion in 2002) for tax credits to eliminate the interest costs on school construction bonds, and $1.3 billion would fund a new School Renovation program. Of that $1.3 billion, $50 million would be given as grants to Native American reservation schools, $125 million would fund grants to other “high-need” districts, and $1.125 billion would subsidize zero-interest federal loans for school construction. This marks the third year that President Clinton has proposed a school modernization package; the initiative has failed to gain passage in the last two years.

• $450 million for the Technology Literacy Challenge Fund program, a $25 million increase over this year’s funding. The program provides block grants for states to administer to local school districts to fund hardware, software, connectivity, and training. The administration sought $450 million last year but had to settle for $425 million.

• $170 million for the Next Generation Technology Innovation program, a new initiative that combines the Technology Innovation Challenge Grants and Star Schools programs. Three competitions for new awards under this program are proposed for 2001: Advanced Technology Applications, the Mississippi Delta Initiative, and Challenging Coursework Online. Advanced Technology Applications will support research and development initiatives that advance state-of-the-art educational technology applications. The Mississippi Delta Initiative will provide training to middle school teachers in the Mississippi Delta region. The Challenging Coursework Online initiative will support the development of high-quality, web-based Advanced Placement, foreign language, and other challenging courses to help ensure that high school students in poor rural and inner-city schools have access to challenging coursework that their own schools can’t always afford to provide. The proposed $170 million in funding is less than the $200 million provided by the Technology Innovation Challenge Grants and Star Schools programs in FY 2000.

• $100 million for the Community Technology Centers program, which funds computer learning centers for students and adults in low-income neighborhoods. For its FY 2000 budget, the administration proposed $65 million but had to settle for half of that total.

• $16 million for the Ready to Learn Digital Television program, which supports the development of educational programming and outreach activities designed to promote literacy and school readiness. The program is funded at $16 million in FY 2000 as well.

• $10 million for the Regional Technology in Education Consortia program, which supports the six regional consortia that help states and districts integrate technology with teaching and learning. The program is also funded at $10 million in FY 2000.

• $5 million for the Telecommunications Program for Professional Development, which would expand the currently funded Telecommunications Demonstration Project for Mathematics program to promote excellent teaching in all core subject areas. The program would fund the use of telecommunications to support sustained professional development and teacher networks that train teachers to help all students achieve state content standards. This year’s Telecommunications Demonstration Project for Mathematics program is funded at $8.5 million.

• $2 million for the Technology Leadership Activities program, which seeks to strengthen evaluation of the effectiveness of technology programs and to bring together public and private entities to help schools effectively use all available technology resources. The $2 million request would fund the program at its current level.

U.S. Department of Education’s FY 2001 Budget site

House Committee on Education and the Workforce

Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to Use Technology

21st Century Community Learning Centers


Board’s web feedback criticized

A Pennsylvania school board’s use of comments received over the internet has set off a controversy involving the state’s sunshine laws, which require open access to public meetings.

When Central Bucks School District officials were faced with tough decisions that would uproot and place some 2,800 students in new schools, they solicited feedback from parents over the internet instead of using the traditional, face-to-face format of a school board meeting.

Administrators at the Doylestown, Pa.-based district—the third largest in the state—say the process made it easy for them to see where the greatest need for change was. But some parents who were unhappy with the proposed changes have questioned the validity of transferring the democratic process online.

For one thing, the hundreds of electronic comments that were posted to the district’s web site were not made public. Barry Kaufmann, executive director of Common Cause Pennsylvania, a state public interest lobby, said parents should be concerned that comments made online were not shared with others in the community.

“Any part of the online discourse which otherwise would have been part of an open meeting should [have been] made available to the public,” he told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The district’s experiment in the newly evolving realm of eDemocracy shows the challenges that schools face in creating a viable, open forum for discussion if they opt to use the internet in the decision-making process.

Barbara Schumann, administrative assistant for community relations at Central Bucks, told eSchool News the district placed a PowerPoint presentation of its original rezoning plan—which was unveiled at a December board meeting—as well as maps supporting the plan on its web site for public perusal.

“Plus, we added a link where parents could give their comments on the rezoning. All their responses were given to the board,” she said.

Over a two-week period, more than 500 responses to the new zoning proposal were posted to the district online.

Parents and community members were encouraged to attend a Jan. 11 board meeting, during which the final version of the district’s rezoning plan was revealed, and speak for the allotted two minutes each. But board members said they already had made amendments to the plan based on comments from the online forum.

In all, more than 20 parents spoke at the Jan. 11 meeting. But their requests had no effect on board members, who decided to stick with the plan they’d already drafted.

Though it might be more convenient for schools, the shift toward dealing with school policy issues online rather than through conventional methods has some parents and citizens’ rights advocates up in arms.

“We feel like we have not had a chance to get our point across,” parent John Pearson reportedly told the board at its Jan. 11 meeting. “We all wrote into the web site and all, but we don’t know how much of that you read.”

Kaufmann also voiced some concerns. “There is a very different dynamic to a meeting where public officials have to confront the public face to face. There’s a synergy in a public meeting that’s not there [when the internet is used instead],” he told eSchool News.

As one of his main concerns, Kaufmann cited the fact that parents without computer access might be left out of the democratic process.

“We are nowhere near 100 percent computer penetration in households and nowhere even close to that number in internet access,” he said. “This restricts the input of those who don’t have computers… If the online suggestions had been in addition to more traditional ways of communication, I’d commend them.”

But they were, said Schumann. After the December meeting outlining the initial rezoning plan, “there were people who sent in comments, stopped by the district office, called. And board members were certainly free to amend the plan at any time.”

Board members said they carefully considered every comment that was posted online, and apologized for not being able to respond to each one. They pointed to the changes they made as proof they were paying attention.

Schumann suggested that sour grapes could be partly responsible for driving the debate over using online discourse to decide public school policy.

“Parents who are happy with the changes thought the online response form was wonderful, but parents who did not like the changes in the amended plan tend to say, ‘We weren’t listened to,’ and so on. But it’s not that we didn’t hear them, it’s just that we can’t please everyone,” she said.

Policy experts familiar with Pennsylvania’s Sunshine Law, passed in the 1970s to ensure open access to public meetings, expressed concern over the fact that the online comments were not made part of the public record, and feedback from citizens was not posted for all to see.

Problems like this may continue to arise, Kaufmann fears, because of the antiquated nature of state laws concerning open records.

According to Common Cause Pennsylvania, the state Open Records Law, enacted in the 1950s, “does not cover a wide range of government documents, and fails to account for contemporary records maintenance practices (e.g. computers and other electronic data systems).”

The organization is trying to change the law to make all government-generated documents a matter of public record, with a small number of tightly drawn exceptions.

Opponents to substituting the internet for public meetings note that convenience is not always paramount to other concerns.

“Sometimes democracy [must be] inefficient to be done well,” Kaufmann said.

Central Bucks School District

Common Cause


Web sites joust for school business

Two new web sites are jousting for the right to help school officials who are fed up with the hassle of traditional school supply procurement procedures. The sites aim to take some of the burden off of purchasing officials—and the red tape out of the buying process.

The two players in the K-12 online procurement arena are and the brand-new Between them, they hope to win at least a small portion of what the Gartner Group market research estimated in 1999 was a $115 billion market.

“We sell everything it takes to run the business of education, from hundreds of gallons of floor wax to grandstands, to pencils and paper,” said Jared Cameron, vice president for communications at Simplexis.

Epylon, the more venerable of the two sites, has been in beta testing in 65 districts over the past year, and it will be the first web site where school purchasing officials can go to buy essential equipment for their districts. Simplexis launched its beta testing in February, under the leadership of former U.S. secretary of education, ex-Tennessee governor, and one-time presidential hopeful Lamar Alexander.

Both sites will be free to schools. Both will provide comparisons of products and services in an attempt to make the procurement process more efficient. And both aim to become a single source for everything a school district needs to operate.

Before the development of these sites, large school districts with 10-15 procurement staffers and thousands of new students per year were totally responsible for researching and making decisions on the more than 1,000 needs that hit their desks every week.

“Typically, these folks get on the phone or go to catalogs to get information on products,” said Steve George, Epylon’s founder, president, and CEO. District employees must then submit request forms, which are shuffled from department to department, taking weeks and using up valuable time before finally being approved.

Nationwide, school officials handle an estimated 25 million purchase orders per year, according to Simplexis.

“There’s a lot of paper and a lot of suppliers doing nothing but trying to make a sale,” said Epylon’s George. “We want to create a paperless solution to allow more time for teaching kids.”

According to Simplexis’ Cameron, a single requisition form costs a school district $125 (by Department of Education estimates) in the form of labor and paper costs. The new web sites claim to cut those expenses and even eliminate the cost of buying new software.

With online procurement sites, Simplexis’ Cameron explained, procurement information is entered online using standard district forms and submitted to all the proper parties electronically, thereby eliminating processing costs.

Both companies say the vendors they represent online are chosen by the districts themselves. “We want to compliment the existing sales processes,” Epylon’s George said.

Linda Bertolucci is the director of purchasing for Grossmont Union High School District, one of the schools participating in Epylon’s beta testing. “From what I’ve seen, this is a one-stop shop. They’ll even produce price quotes for new products for me, which is a wonderful time-saver,” she said.

Though both companies agree that a little competition is healthy for a growing market, they disagree on their methods of research and implementation.

Epylon has based its strategy on creating a web resource tailor-made for educators by initially beta-testing the web site with 55 school districts leveraging over $3 billion in purchasing power. “It is different in schools than in the private sector. Education needs a tailored web resource. Private sector resources can’t be tweaked to fit education standards,” George said.

Bertolucci agreed. “I’ve done both, and there is a real difference in how a private business and school districts do their purchasing,” she said.

Not necessarily so, say officials at Simplexis. “Our objectives are threefold,” explained Alexander. “First, we want to make [purchasing] simple. Second, we want it to be reliable. We are not trying to reinvent the wheel here. We have taken technologies proven in the business world and adapted them to fit school’s needs. Finally, we want our site to be comprehensive. We want to make sure school officials have the broadest selection of vendors possible.”

One point they both agree on: moving the complex procurement process online will be good for schools. “Saving money on the supplies schools buy means more money for kids in classrooms,” Alexander said. “Helping schools cut costs is what Simplexis is all about.”



Web site gives ‘free’ scholarships

A web site that made its debut Feb. 3 is offering students tens of thousands of dollars in scholarship money. All it wants in return is to get to know them better. promises to give away $10,000 every day for college, graduate school, or even private and parochial school.

Scholarships from the new Cambridge, Mass.-based company are financed largely by marketers and advertisers aiming products at teen-agers and 20-somethings.

Site visitors must register to be eligible. Playing games, answering surveys and polls, referring friends, and clicking on ads earns more chances.

Winners, chosen by a computer-generated random drawing, can win more than once. The odds of hitting the jackpot depend on how many fellow travelers log on.

The incentives for coughing up demographic information are great. FreeScholarships plans to award another $25,000 every month and $50,000 each quarter to pay tuition, in addition to the $10,000 winner seven days a week.

“It’s a low-energy path for people to get a shot at helping them pay for school,” said Chuck Digate, the company’s founder.

It’s also the latest of a host of web sites handing out millions to web surfers in exchange for a valuable storefront on the crowded internet superhighway.

Others have offered one-time scholarship sweepstakes—, for example, just wrapped up a promotion with a grand prize of four years’ tuition, or up to $80,000.

Free money on the internet is a booming business.

The portal site, which offers cash jackpots to web surfers, is ranked among the 50 most popular sites of the 21,000 followed by the internet survey firm MediaMetrix. The site gives away a $10,000 prize every day, $1 million each month, and promises to award someone $10 million on April 17, the day taxes are due.

The reality, of course, is that most site visitors never win the big bucks, so FreeScholarships also provides financial aid tips, with links to national scholarship programs.

The new site sounds well-intentioned enough, said Mark Cannon, deputy executive director of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, which represents guidance counselors and admissions officers.

Even so, he said, “You don’t need to be a sweepstakes winner to afford college.”

Still, half of all U.S. college graduates emerge from school in debt—$12,000 on average at public institutions, $14,000 at private institutions. The typical yearly bill at a four-year private school, including room and board, averages $23,651, while state schools hover just under $11,000.

To ensure the money goes to school and not a new car or vacation, FreeScholarships will send a winner’s check directly to the college, bank, or other lending program, Digate said.

College grads with loans to pay off also are eligible, as are parents planning for future college bills. Winners need only be U.S. citizens over age 13.

Timothy McDonough, spokesman for the American Council on Education, a Washington-based higher education trade group, said the buyer should beware.

“You’re always concerned about the possibility of some kind of scam activity,” said McDonough. He said the web site’s financial information might not be the most reliable.

The education council’s web site is designed to show that college isn’t as expensive as many fear. According to the site, more than two-thirds of full-time undergraduates receive financial aid, averaging $6,800.

Dallas Martin, president of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, said anything that helps students confront college costs should be commended.

“So what if there’s a commercial side to it?” he asked.

Students don’t seem to mind being pitched to, if the site’s traffic is any indication. According to Digate, “massive demand” overwhelmed the site’s servers shortly after its launch.

Thousands of people were able to register for the jackpot on the first day, but “what we don’t know is, how many people tried to and couldn’t,” Digate said.

FreeScholarships web site

National Association for College Admission Counseling

American Council on Education

National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators


US West gives $55M to Ore. schools

Every Oregon high school student and teacher will benefit from advanced telecommunications technologies within the next two years, thanks to a new law enacted to deregulate the state’s telephone companies.

U.S. West, the state’s largest phone company, agreed to pay a total of $119 million for telecommunications improvements to schools and rural communities to help win passage of the law, which frees phone companies from state regulation of their profits.

Under the law passed by the 1999 Oregon Legislature, the state Public Utility Commission (PUC) won’t regulate profits but can instead set price caps on services.

U.S. West officials presented Gov. John Kitzhaber with a $25 million check in January—the first of two payments to the Connecting Oregon Communities Fund, for distribution to K-12 schools by the Oregon Department of Education. U.S. West is scheduled to make another $25 million grant to the fund in 2001.

“This check represents an opportunity for all of Oregon’s K-12 schools—urban and rural—to invest in technology that will be essential in the 21st century,” Kitzhaber said.

He said the heavily lobbied bill underwent many changes during the legislative session but ended up being “a good deal for consumers.”

The money will be used to install internet access—as well as two-way video and audio hook-ups—in all 200 Oregon high schools, said Larry Austin, a spokesman for the state Department of Education.

The two-way hook-ups will be interactive, allowing teachers and students throughout the state to communicate live, Austin said.

For example, teachers can use the equipment to teach classes in areas where specialized courses—such as Japanese—cannot be offered. And educators will be able to make presentations on new curricula and teaching strategies to colleagues throughout the state.

A big benefit for Board of Education members will be the ability to communicate instantly with schools throughout the state, rather than mailing lengthy course materials to individual schools. Instant messaging will be crucial during emergencies as well, Austin said.

U.S. West spokesman Jim Haynes said that U.S. West, a local internet service provider, or even a different telephone company could install a school’s connections. Details of the plan are still being worked out, he said.

Before the new bill passed, U.S. West had been operating under “rate return” regulation, which has stifled competition and encouraged a monopoly, according to Kitzhaber’s administration. In compliance with the new law, U.S. West will now operate under a system of price caps.

As part of the deal that led to passage of the deregulation bill, U.S. West also will commit $69 million over four years to improve telecommunications services to rural Oregon communities.

The plan for improving rural service calls for developing high-capacity, high-speed lines; building alternate telecommunications routes; and speeding up the installation of advanced telecommunications services in rural areas.

The state PUC was sharply critical of initial versions of the bill, saying that U.S. West was trying to reduce potential refunds and rate reductions for its customers. But PUC member Joan Smith called the final legislation a benefit for consumers.

The PUC will continue to regulate the rates a company can charge for basic phone service, Smith said: “Nobody’s going to get a dial tone that costs a bazillion dollars.”

Plus, she said, the new law gives the PUC the power to automatically fine companies that don’t meet new minimum standards that are to be adopted. The commission previously had to go to court to impose fines.

U.S. West

Oregon Department of Education


Schools sharpen grant savvy

Nearly 500 educators from more than 36 states came together in January to meet grant givers, government funders, and assorted experts on how to raise money for school technology. They gathered at the Grants & Funding for School Technology conference in New Orleans Jan. 27 and 28. The conference was produced by eSchool News with corporate support from Teacher Universe Inc. and

Besides contacts and courses, attendees got early word of what promises to be a boon for cash-strapped schools in search of technology funding: a free, web-based database of K-12 grants set to launch in February.

The Grant Locator will be searchable by keywords across five categories of funding—Federal, Foundation, Corporate, State and Local, and Other. Each of the database’s nearly 50,000 records will contain a description of the program, its funding priorities, application requirements, and contact information, according to the site’s creator, Teacher Universe.

The result of six months of research and development, the Grant Locator was created to save time and eliminate frustration on the part of K-12 grant seekers, said Peggy Lanier, former vice president of marketing for Teacher Universe.

“School districts spend thousands of dollars in staff hours trying to find sources of funding,” Lanier said. “We wanted to give them one single, simple location to come and learn all they need to know about the grants that might be available to them.”

The database is driven by a comprehensive search engine designed to help schools zero in on the best grants for their needs, she added. Up to four keywords can be used to narrow down the field of search and identify only the most appropriate grants for a proposed project.

The result, according to Teacher Universe, is that school grant seekers will spend less time searching and have more time to dedicate to writing proposals.

The database will be managed by a full-time staff so that grant seekers don’t filter through grants that are no longer available, Lanier said. In addition, new programs will be added to the database as they are announced.

Trends in funding

The Grant Locator, which will be available from the home page of the Teacher Universe web site, was just one of numerous ideas discussed at the Grants & Funding for School Technology conference.

In two general sessions and 18 technical sessions, the assembled experts—corporate and private foundation executives, federal program officers, educators, and grantwriting consultants—offered their advice for securing technology funding for K-12 schools.

Keynote speaker Jill Stephens, corporate outreach director for the Dulles, Va.-based AOL Foundation, kicked off the conference by telling attendees about the foundation’s giving. The impending merger of America Online and Time Warner likely will allow the foundation to expand its reach beyond its existing programs, Bridging the Digital Divide and Interactive Education Initiative, Stephens said.

Stephens also revealed her list of the “Top 10 Questions That Are Important to Corporate Grantmakers.” Among the questions she cited: Does the proposal tie into your schools’ overall goals and strategies? How will technology be used—and why is it important to the overall success of the project? Will your proposal have a positive impact on student learning? How will this impact be measured?

Tad Asbury, senior program officer for the MCI WorldCom Foundation, echoed Stephens’ thoughts. In a session titled “Approaching Corporate Funders: What Sells,” Asbury noted that corporate philanthropy tends to be more short-term, issue-driven, results-oriented, and less patient than private foundation philanthropy.

But the good news for schools, Asbury said, is that corporate funders are moving beyond “checkbook” giving to include expanded resources—such as in-kind services, skills, volunteerism, and products—as part of their total portfolio of giving.

Addressing the trends in federal government funding, Julie Kaminkow, special assistant to the director of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology, revealed “New Funding Priorities” for the agency in 2000.

Here are some of the federal government’s funding hot buttons, she said: projects that aim to close the “digital divide” (by giving poorer students and families access to technology); programs that aim to increase the number of technology-savvy teachers; projects that generate high-quality, replicable content for the classroom; and programs that demonstrate how technology makes a difference.

eRate update

With up to $2.25 billion in telecommunications discounts available each year, the eRate is the largest single source for technology funding. Kate Moore, president of the Schools and Libraries Division (SLD) of the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC)—the group that administers the program—was on hand to brief attendees on the state of the eRate.

“There is an unprecedented stability to the program right now,” Moore said, noting that the tide of anti-eRate sentiment in Congress has subsided, at least for the moment. However, the General Accounting Office—the investigative arm of Congress—is auditing the SLD for the second time and will present its findings to Congress later this year.

The initial filing window for applications covering the third year of the eRate closed on January 19, Moore said. The SLD expects to issue funding commitments by early May, in time for the start of the program’s third year on July 1.

During the Year-Three filing window, which lasted 71 days, schools and libraries across the country submitted more than 36,000 final applications, Moore said, surpassing last year’s total of 32,000. In the second year that electronic filing was available via the SLD’s web site, more than 28,000 applicants submitted their Form 471 applications electronically, tripling last year’s total of just over 9,000.

Now that funding requests have been received, Moore said, USAC will estimate the dollar amount of demand and present this information to the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC can set funding up to $2.25 billion, based on the demand.

Receipt acknowledgement letters were expected to go out to all Year-Three applicants beginning the week of Jan. 31, Moore said. To distinguish these letters (and all subsequent correspondence from the SLD) from materials concerning Years One and Two, the Year-Three letters will be printed on yellow paper.

Moore said the SLD would be starting random field audits of applicants from Years One and Two to make sure they have complied with program rules. She advised applicants to keep all supporting documents readily available.

Some changes that applicants can expect for Year Four of the eRate: better organization of the SLD web site—including a search engine and a step-by-step procedure for applying—and a guide for electronically filing a Form 471. To ensure program stability, no major changes will be made to next year’s forms, Moore said.

Tips and techniques

Allen Schmieder, vice president of K-20 educational programs for JDL Technologies, moderated a roundtable discussion called “Rules of the Game.” A former federal government official, Schmieder advised grant seekers to know who your readers will be before you develop a proposal.

For example, if the readers for the program you’re applying to are mostly teachers, you’ll want to tailor your program description to reflect this fact. Emphasize that the role of teachers is integral to the project’s success, he suggested.

In a session titled “New Resources for School Grant Seekers,” Sue Collins, senior vice president of marketing for K-12 technology startup, urged grant seekers to start locally. “We do not tap our local resources nearly enough,” she said. Form a local trust or foundation, she recommended, and solicit help from banks, local companies, and chambers of commerce.

eSchool News columnist and fundraising consultant Deborah Ward took attendees on a tour through the basic elements of a proposal—the abstract or executive summary, statement of need, goal and objectives, evaluation plan, budget, and personnel section—in a well-attended session called “Crafting the Winning Grant Proposal.”

A word of caution for grant seekers: Title each section of your proposal using the same titles that appear in the RFP (request for proposal), Ward said, because these are what readers will be looking for. You don’t want to risk having a section of your proposal overlooked and awarded zero points.

The Grants & Funding for School Technology conference will be held again—April 27 and 28 in Kansas City, Mo. For more information, visit the eSchool News web site.

Teacher Universe

AOL Foundation

U.S. Department of Education

Schools and Libraries Division of USAC

JDL Technologies

Grants & Funding for School Technology Midwest conference


Whiteville City Schools’ Patricia Medlin proves the value of forging partnerships with local businesses.

Three years ago, each of Whiteville City Schools’ four school buildings had only a dial-up connection to the internet. Today, the 2,800-student district in rural North Carolina can boast that it has one of the most technologically advanced networks in the country, thanks to the the leadership and dedication of its curriculum director, Patricia Medlin.

Whiteville owns its own educational metropolitan area network (EMAN), consisting of 30 miles of fiber-optic cable running directly to the classroom. The network uses Gigabit Ethernet technology to deliver voice, video, and data communications at speeds up to 1 gigabit—or 1,000 megabits—per second throughout the district.

The combination of Gigabit Ethernet and fiber to the classroom creates a highly reliable and scalable network that is capable of meeting both current and future bandwidth demands. A district-wide eMail system, remote network monitoring, voice-over-IP, telephony, and distance learning are just a few of the capabilities the network provides.

With more than 60 percent of its students qualifying for free or reduced-price lunches, Whiteville is by no means a wealthy community. The district’s experience proves that anything is possible when you work hard and solicit help from the community, Medlin said.

“Our attitude was, ‘Let’s find the funding,'” she said. “It took vision from the district level, and that meant support from our superintendent, Dr. Anthony Parker, and the school board. We were determined to make it happen one way or another.”

At first, Medlin—who coordinated the entire project— thought there was no way the district would be able to afford a fiber-based network. But in a competitive bid against some of the state’s best data contractors, Lawrenceville, Ga.-based solutions provider FIBERWORKS Inc. proved her wrong.

Owning the network will save the district thousands of dollars in leased-line charges over the course of the network’s lifetime, said the company’s Scott Burkholder: “When you factor in total cost of ownership, it’s really a cost-effective way to go.”

The district leases only a single T1 line from its state telecommunications provider to get to and from the internet, and that connection is subsidized by the eRate. For help in financing the rest of the project, Medlin and the district turned to partnerships with local businesses.

At Medlin’s request, Sumitomo Electric Lightwave Corp. generously donated five miles of six-strand, single mode fiber to connect the district’s four schools and its administrative building. Carolina Power and Light Co. mapped out the route for the fiber runs between the five sites, allowed the district to use its poles at no cost, and even exchanged a pole at no cost in order to make room for the fiber.

In addition, Sprint Telephone and Time Warner Cable waived their pole rental fees for the district, and Time Warner also exchanged a pole at no cost to make room for district’s fiber.

“Regulatory process allows you to get on the poles, but it doesn’t require that the process be easy,” Medlin said. “They had to be willing to work with us to do this, and they were willing to provide the resources. Without the collaborative effort of these business partners, the network would not have been put in place.”

All told, Medlin figures it only cost the district about $600,000 to install the network—some $130,000 to $140,000 of which was spent on electrical upgrades. For help with the rest of the project’s costs, the district was able to secure state technology funding.

“The infrastructure we have in place now has opened so many doors for us,” Medlin said. “The potential that is there is mind-boggling.” As an example, she said the state Department of Education has invited Whiteville City Schools to take part in a video streaming project, and the district’s schools now have access to a statewide database of periodicals, encyclopedias, and lesson plans online.

“None of this would have been possible before,” she said.

Whiteville City Schools



Should students have access to eMail accounts?

“I don’t know if this is true or not, but I received this message from a reliable source. Bill Gates is going to give $100 to everyone who forwards this message to someone they know.”

This turned up in my eMail in-box last week—right below another message about some kid in a coma who would get a hefty donation from a well-known company based on the success of a chain letter. Both of these messages had come from students, and both were sent to the entire school address book, including faculty and administration. I scrolled down through my eMail to find the obligatory complaints from faculty about student spam and one or two messages questioning why students should be given access to eMail at all.

This is a question I’ve had to look into recently at the request of our headmaster, after we uncovered several cases of eMail abuse in a short period of time. While the examples above are relatively innocent, we were beginning to see more serious issues of safety and security threatened by inappropriate use of eMail.

Specifically, we began to realize that some students were using the eMail system to circumvent the internet filtering system on our network. They would access the internet from home and download material that would have been blocked by our filter. Then they would eMail that material to themselves at school, where they could distribute it to other students.

Our concern over this situation quickly grew to alarm when several students complained to me about getting eMail containing sexually explicit material from an unknown person with a Hotmail address. In the end, it turned out that the owner of the Hotmail address was a student who was posing as someone from outside the school, but we didn’t know this at the time.

Because the person seemed to know some specific details about our students, we were immediately concerned for their safety. This prompted the headmaster to ask me to examine how students and faculty were using the eMail system and to evaluate the appropriateness of a policy which grants all students access to eMail.

The first step in my investigation was to poll teachers about how often they use eMail with their students, and how beneficial it was to them to be able to communicate with students through eMail. As it turned out, a significant percentage of our teachers do make use of the eMail system to communicate with their students. Some send their classes links to web sites or homework assignments. Others share PowerPoint presentations that they have used in class. Our ESL teacher requires his students to eMail him a note in English every day, and many teachers accept work from their students submitted by eMail. Additionally, students benefit from the ability to eMail documents to themselves to work on at home.

Despite these very useful applications, the student eMail system is also a significant source of wasted time and outright abuse. A casual observation of the lab indicates that the majority of student eMail traffic consists of personal notes and forwarded jokes, pictures, and hyperlinks. While this is not necessarily harmful, I question the educational benefits of these uses, and then I wonder about the money we spent on the eMail system and internet access.

Often, the biggest traffickers of frivolous eMail are the students who can least afford to do so. I once stood behind two students whose time could have been better employed studying and watched them exchange eMail for about a half an hour insulting each other’s mothers. What amazed me the most was that these students were sitting right next to each other.

Now, I suppose there is a school of thought that I don’t entirely disagree with, which says that sharing thoughts (or mother jokes) in writing rather than out loud helps develop writing skills, despite the informal diction and grammatical errors. While I haven’t seen any research in support or opposition of this concept, I can see how forcing someone to slow down to translate a thought into writing might result in better communication skills. Working without the benefit of tone and inflection inherent in oral communication must at least force clarity of thought, if not perfect grammar and diction.

While some benefits may exist, speculation of a marginal educational value does not, in my opinion, justify these frivolous student uses of eMail. In addition to taking the student’s time away from subjects he might be struggling in, it also prevents other students who have real work to do from using that computer. In an attempt to curb this type of activity, we considered several different options.

The first option was to deny all students access, and to use eMail for faculty and administrative communication only. This was certainly the easiest solution, but we decided against it for a number of reasons. Since many of our students do not have computers at home, we are their only source of exposure to technology, and we felt strongly that students should learn how to use this tool appropriately before moving on to college. Many of the teachers we polled also felt strongly that the ability to eMail their students was of great value to them. Additionally, we have a number of students whose parents live in other countries, and eMail is the most convenient way for them to stay in touch.

Several other solutions we looked into included granting access to juniors and seniors only, restricting underclassmen to local eMail only, and assigning eMail accounts upon faculty request only. Each of these ideas was rejected due to the enormous management overhead that would go along with tracking which students were supposed to have access, as well as the coordination of training for small groups of students on the proper use of the eMail system. Also, the teachers who use eMail regularly teach both lower and upper classmen.

We were further able to identify a number of non-academic uses of eMail which were perfectly appropriate. These included eMailing teachers to ask for a letter of recommendation, eMailing the registrar for a copy of a transcript, or corresponding with a parent during the workday.

As a way to reduce student spam, we considered restricting students from using the “send to all” feature in our eMail system, but we decided not to do this, either. While some faculty members find it annoying to receive unsolicited eMail from students, I have done my best to convince them that this type of expression of ideas to a large audience is exactly what students need to better prepare them for the use of the internet in the future.

Students are taught that chain letters and messages not pertinent to the entire community are inappropriate. I encourage students to make announcements about sporting events and club meetings, but perhaps the most interesting use of this feature of the system has been the ability for students to open discussions of issues that concern the entire community, such as racism, security, and behavior.

While mass mailings like these don’t generally spawn extensive discussions, they do force the student to put a fair amount of thought into his point. By sending the message to faculty and administration as well as his peers, the student opens himself to challenges and rebuttals from a wide variety of sources. In this way, the eMail system levels the playing field between students and teachers. Arguments can be judged on their merit and not on the age of the person presenting them. This is a big part of what makes the internet such a powerful tool.

In the end, we decided to keep our current policy of giving all freshmen an eMail account at the beginning of the school year. We chose to focus more on the ways that eMail should—and should not—be used in the Intro to Computers course that all freshmen take. The adults in the computer lab have also been instructed to be more vigilant in reprimanding students about frivolous use of eMail.

While I am sure that we will continue to have abuses, I’m also sure that we will continue to reap the benefits—both academically and socially—that our eMail system provides to our students and community.


Internet: Piloting a web-based curriculum project.

With some 600 schools and 450,000 students, Chicago Public Schools face a greater-than-average challenge in communicating standards and getting all the district’s teachers and students on the same page.

To solve the problem, the nation’s third-largest district has turned to the internet—and a technology firm called Saber Consulting, led by 28-year-old wunderkind CEO Nitin Khanna—to create a highly successful networked system.

The system, called the Technology Infusion Project, is an internet application by which the district’s teachers can build curriculum around the state’s and the city’s goal-tracking benchmarks—the Illinois State Goals and the Chicago Academic Framework.

By putting all of the curriculum and lesson plans online, teachers are able to share what works and learn what doesn’t—and administrators can be sure that specific initatives are being addressed in the classroom.

In addition, when the Technology Infusion Project is complete, the district’s students will be able to work together online on a variety of tasks assigned by their teachers. They’ll also be able to share research and eMail with each other from school or at home.

How the system works

Officials in the district’s Online Services office wanted a web-based system that would be simple enough for students from kindergarten through high school to use. And, of course, the system had to be secure, as students’ work needed to be protected online.

When they had trouble finding an off-the-shelf program that met their needs, they turned to Saber in April 1999. By July 19, the first phase of the project was completed, to the tune of more than 200 custom web pages.

According to Khanna, it was critical that the new system be free of glitches and other problems, as already-wary K-12 teachers would be discouraged from using the system if it were hard to use.

Another challenge was getting teachers trained to use the new equipment over the summer, with very little notice, so they could be ready to implement the system in August.

The resulting project, which incorporates Saber’s implementation strategy and database and web server technologies from Oracle Corp., currently is being tested by about 6,000 of the district’s students and teachers—and so far, it has been a smashing success, according to the project’s lead teacher, Helen Hoffenberg.

“Everyone has been wonderfully receptive. We’ve also had great turnouts at the [professional development] classes we offer,” she said.

The district’s Technology Infusion Project has made it possible for students to create online projects and add tasks, quizzes, and activities to those projects. Students also can upload any document directly into the system.

The system incorporates a messaging service between teachers and students, and a library where teachers can store resources such as documents, images, and web links. The administration center allows teachers to set up classes and groups of students, and the submission center encourages students to submit their work to these projects.

Teachers can use the new system to create interactive multimedia projects as a way to engage the interest of their students, as well as meet state standards.

“Teacher-created projects are titled, and the teacher then chooses a grade level and subject for the project,” explained Hoffenberg. “Once they enter this information, a set of appropriate standards pops up immediately, so teachers have to choose which standards they are addressing even before they create the project.”

Professional development classes and field guides support the district’s instructors. “With all the support, teachers now say they are not afraid to try new things,” Hoffenberg said.

Other features of the project include:

• The ability for teachers to send eMail to all students in a class, group, or individually with the click of a button;

• The ability for students to do work or take quizzes from their homes (for example, if students are out sick or on vacation with their parents);

• The ability for teachers in one school to copy the work and projects of teachers in another school or from another school year; and

• The ability for teachers to collaborate on projects in one of two ways: Each teacher can manage the project separately, with students only seeing what their teacher wants them to see; or teachers can work together as a group, and all of their students see the same project.

A sample project

Teachers, too, have expressed satisfaction with the Technology Infusion Project. Sixth- through eighth-grade creative writing teacher Lynn Heise has created a project to help her students understand the plight of the immigrant in the early 1900s.

On Heise’s Immigration page, students have access to 10-15 web resources, and they are encouraged to use all their creative talents to integrate the facts they gather into a fictional narrative. Students are asked to pretend they are actually immigrating to the United States from Ireland or Italy.

Heise encourages her students to eMail any comments or questions they might have to her, and she estimates that her students access the secure Technology Infusion site at least two or three times per week.

“Considering I literally knew nothing about computers in July, it’s just incredible,” she said of her involvement with the district’s new program. “I took the training course over the summer and it turned me on so much to the possibilities that I now use the computer almost every day. And the work I get from my students is ten times better now than it was before.”

Saber Consulting is three years old and specializes in rapid development technology using Oracle technology. “We help to develop custom applications as quickly as off-the-shelf. And happily, Saber’s needs have managed to coincide with the online and eCommerce craze,” Khanna said.

In the case of Chicago Public Schools, Khanna said that the company identified a need to implement an engaged learning method. “Prior to the internet, there was really no way to achieve engaged learning. Schools needed to go online, but until now there was a lack of a rallying point,” he said.

With the Technology Infusion Project, teachers, students, and parents can foster open and engaged communication. “We all love it,” added Heise. “I just can’t say enough good stuff.”

Chicago Public Schools

Saber Consulting


Key organizations and leading companies that support the eSchool movement.

AbleSoft Inc., of Lancaster, Pa., is a leading developer and publisher of teacher productivity software and a provider of educational content for school and home use. Visit the AbleSoft web site:

(800) 334-2722

See the ad for AbleSoft on page 27

Acer America Corp., headquartered in San Jose, Calif., is part of the Acer Group, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of microcomputers. Visit Acer’s web site:

(800) 733-2237

See Acer’s ad on pages 62 and 63

AlphaSmart Inc., headquartered in Cupertino, Calif., develops and markets affordable and effective technology solutions for the education market. Visit AlphaSmart’s web site:

(888) 274-0680

See AlphaSmart’s ad on page 23 is a brand-new education destination delivering all the components required to support the learning community. Visit’s web site:

See the ad on page 15

Boxlight Corp., located in Poulsbo, Wash. is a leading source among educators for presentation equipment. Visit the Boxlight web site:

(800) 689-6676

See Boxlight’s ad on page 55

Chancery Software Ltd., of British Columbia, provides student information systems that are accurate, timely, and easy to use. Visit the Chancery web site:

(800) 999-9931

See Chancery’s ad on page 24

Compaq Computer Corp., headquartered in Houston, is a world leader of the PC industry. Visit Compaq’s web site:

(800) 888-3224

See Compaq’s ad on pages 2 and 3

CompassLearning, of San Diego, is a leader in curriculum software and professional development. Visit the CompassLearning web site:

(800) 244-0575

See the CompassLearning ad on page 18

DDC Publishing, of New York City, provides internet research projects and applications. Visit the DDC web site:

(800) 528-3897

See the ad for DDC on page 21

Dell Computer Corp., of Round Rock, Texas, is the world’s leading direct-sales computer company. Visit Dell’s web site:

(800) 822-6078

See Dell’s ad on pages 32 and 33

FamilyEducation Network, of Boston, is a leader in web site editing tools and templates. Visit the FamilyEducation Network web site:

(800) 558-3382

See the FamilyEducation Network’s ad on the back cover

Fortres Grand Corp., of Plymouth, Ind., supplies an innovative security agent that resides invisibly between the user and the computer. Visit the Fortres Grand web site:

(800) 331-0372

See the ad for Fortres Grand on page 30

Homework Central, headquartered in New York City, is an educational web site tailored to fit both teachers’ and students’ needs by providing 75,000 links on 10,000 subjects. Visit Homework Central’s web site:

(212) 244-2870

See the ad for Homework Central on page 47

Knowledge Adventure, of Torrence, Calif., is a leader in developing, publishing, and distributing multimedia educational software. Visit the Knowledge Adventure web site:

(800) 545-7677

See the ad for Knowledge Adventure on

page 29

The Learning Company, of Cambridge, Mass., is a leading producer of affordable programs that give teachers the ability to integrate the internet into their classrooms. Visit The Learning Company’s web site:

(617) 494-1200

See The Learning Company’s ad on page 19

The Lightspan Partnership, of San Diego, is a leading provider of curriculum-based educational software and internet products. Visit the Lightspan Partnership web site:

(888) 425-5543

See Lightspan’s ad on page 10

Lucent Technologies, headquartered in Murray Hill, N.J., provides communications systems, products, technologies, and customer support. Visit the Lucent web site:

(888) 4-LUCENT

See Lucent’s ad on page 43

Magnetic Shield Corp., of Bensenville, Ill., provides an effective cure for magnetic interference on computer monitors. Visit the Magnetic Shield web site:

(877) 290-5558

See the ad for Magnetic Shield on page 20

, of Seattle, delivers a suite of products that makes the internet a safer and more productive place for schools. Visit N2H2’s web site:

(877) 336-2999

See N2H2’s ad on page 11

NCS Inc., of Minneapolis, is one of the nation’s largest single providers of student, curriculum, instructional, and financial management software and services to K-12 schools. Visit NCS’s web site:

(800) 736-4357

See the ad for NCS on page 38

NetSupport Inc., of Cumming, Ga., is a member of the PCI Group of companies, developers of the NetSupport range of award-winning remote control and IT training products. Visit NetSupport’s web site:

(770) 205-4456

See NetSupport’s ad on page 5, of Norcross, Ga., is a free web-based education system providing a new level of communication between schools, students, teachers, administration, and families. Visit the web site:

(800) 370-2730

See the ad on page 14

, of Jacksonville, Fla., designs, develops, and markets automated video camera control systems and emerging wireless technologies. Visit ParkerVision’s web site:

(800) 532-8034

See ParkerVision’s ad on page 37

Penn State World Campus, of University Park, Pa., helps busy educators integrate technology into learning environments through the internet. Visit the World Campus web site:

(800) 252-3592

See the Penn State World Campus ad on page 22

Power On Software, of Minneapolis, offers three award-winning Macintosh network tools: On Guard desktop security, LAN Commander software distribution, and Screen-To-Screen screen sharing and remote control. Visit Power On’s web site:

(800) 344-9160

See the ad for Power On Software on page 12

PowerSchool Inc., of Folsom, Calif., is a leading provider of web-based student information systems to K-12 schools. Visit the PowerSchool web site:


(888) 470-0808

See the PowerSchool ad on page 16

Premio Computer Inc., headquartered in City of Industry, Calif., provides K-12 and university campuses with desktops and servers for all computing needs. Visit the Premio web site:

(800) 677-6477

See Premio’s ad on page 13

Procom Technology, of Santa Ana, Calif., is a leader in network attached storage devices. Visit the Procom Technology web site:

(800) 800-8600

See Procom’s ad on page 31

Riverdeep Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., designs, develops, publishes, markets, and supports interactive learning solutions for K-12 education. Visit the Riverdeep web site:

(800) 564-2587

See Riverdeep’s ad on pages 8 and 9

Sagebrush Technologies, of Austin, Texas, is a leading provider of educational materials, information solutions, and bibliographic information to schools and libraries. Visit the Sagebrush Technologies web site:

(800) 642-4648

See the ad for Sagebrush Technologies on page 35, of Menlo Park, Calif., is an online shopping mall designed to raise money for the school of your choice. Visit the web site:

(877) 724-5767

See the ad for on page 39

Symbol Technologies, of Holtsville, New York, is a leader in wireless networking solutions for education. Visit the Symbol Technologies web site:

(800) 722-6234

See the Symbol Technologies ad on page 17

Synsor Corp., of Cincinnati, Ohio, is a provider of the ShuttleSystem line of changeable, ergonomic, interlocking furniture that reconfigures to meet changes in technology and teaching methods. Visit the ShuttleSystem web site:

(800) 411-1979

See the ad for ShuttleSystem on page 26

Tangent Computer, headquartered in Burlingame, Calif., designs computer systems tailored specifically for education and government applications. Visit Tangent’s web site:


See the ad for Tangent on page 7

TIAA-CREF, of New York City, provides renowned investment expertise for education, research, and related fields. Visit the TIAA-CREF web site:

(800) 842-2776

See the ad for TIAA-CREF on page 25, of Seattle, provides free online shopping that benefits K-12 schools nationwide. Visit the YourSchoolShop web site:

(206) 268-5499

See the ad for YourSchoolShop on page 28

Youthline USA is a unique, safe, and secure internet-based educational

service for K-12 schools. Visit the Youthline USA web site:

(888) 299-6884

See the ad for Youthline USA on page 53