Even as Washington leaders insist “father knows best” when it comes to how schools use the internet, it seems mum’s the word on school funding. As dear old Dad used to say, Keep your mouth shut, son, and people might think you’re a fool–or open it, so they’ll be sure.

Right now, in Washington, there’s a lot of jawing about the Constitution, none of it surprising. According to Conservatives, Liberals have trouble with the 2nd Amendment, especially that part about the right of a well-regulated militia to keep and bear arms. Conservatives, on the other wing, seem inevitably to fly afoul of the free-speech provisions of the 1st Amendment.

In the first month of Bush II, both wings were flapping pretty much as expected. Under provisions of a law written by Sen. John McCain, R.-Ariz., the Republicans engaged the ire of the American Library Association and American Civil Liberties Union (Front Page) with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), which requires schools and libraries seeking federal eRate funds to install internet-content filters on their computers.

Neither side of the tangle seems to care that most schools already have filters. The important thing for McCain and his supporters appears to be the ability to impose their Conservative will on local schools. Trevor Shaw, in this month’s “IT Happens” column, argues that local educators should be insulted by Washington’s paternalistic approach to student use of the internet. Meanwhile, “Ethics & Law” columnist David Splitt explores the legal realities of CIPA.

Paternalism notwithstanding, the son also rises over at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Michael Powell, son of Secretary of State Colin Powell, is the Bush administration’s new FCC chairman (Front Page). His appointment to head this increasingly important agency underscores the irony hovering over both CIPA and the eRate–namely, that if Bush has his way with education funding, the eRate itself will be but a memory, thus splintering the very stick McCain wants to wave over the heads of local schools. Powell the Younger has yet to declare definitively where he stands on the eRate, but past comments from the chairman indicate he’s ambivalent at best about the $2.25 billion program.

Grants & Funding guru Deborah Ward concedes she has no “inside the Beltway” insight, but she nonetheless offers a cogent analysis of how the rules of the funding game could change under the Bush administration. Better still, she gives you sound advice on ways to make your fund-seeking more effective in what presumably will be an era of greater emphasis on assessment and accountability.

I say “presumably” because no one yet knows. As of mid-February, in fact, it was not clear that members of the Bush administration themselves knew what they wanted. Without notice, the administration slapped a moratorium on speaking engagements scheduled by officials at the U.S. Department of Education, the National Science Foundation, and probably a few other agencies as well. This move effectively keeps educators in the dark, including those disappointed by the Bush no-shows at our own Grants & Funding for School Technology Conference in New Orleans.

Not to worry, though. We’ll keep our ears open, and the moment the silence is broken, you’ll hear the clatter right here.

In spite of the disruption caused by the eleventh hour cancellations, it’s hard to argue with the new administration on at least one point: Speaking from ignorance isn’t sound policy– “Wouldn’t be prudent” –not that it’s stopped many Washington chattering heads in the past.

Actually, if the silence continues much longer, Washington just might learn a valuable lesson. It might discover that real wisdom usually resides well beyond the Beltway, sometimes even outside of Texas.

At eSchool News, we’ve known it all along. That’s why we bring you features such as our new “Reader’s Choice Awards”. This month you’ll learn how your peers rate school management software, including those internet filters. In subsequent issues, we’ll fill you in on how educators rate professional development software and lots more.

In Washington, the silence too soon will be broken. Meanwhile, the speech we’re hearing from school leaders around the country isn’t just free. It’s priceless.