A recent—and controversial—study from the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based National Bureau of Economic Research casts a critical eye on the eRate, the $2.25 billion federal program that provides telecommunications discounts to schools and libraries.

Looking at data from California schools, the study concludes the eRate was successful at connecting that state's schools to the internet, accelerating the process by as many as four years. But the program has done nothing to improve the test scores of schoolchildren so far, researchers say.

Supporters of the eRate say that's too broad a leap to


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