Regarding your May 2004 editorial in eSchool News (“From the Publisher: eRate dyspepsia“), the issues you bring up in your editorial are accurate, but would give the reader the impression that there is rampant fraud, or at best abuse, in the eRate program. This impression has also been fostered by congressional hearings, news releases by the [Schools and Libraries Division], and numerous articles written in journals such as yours. While any abuse is certainly serious and should be dealt with aggressively, the percentage of applicants that abuse, let alone defraud, the eRate is negligible.
Our foundation assists many low-wealth school districts in developing a vision for how to properly utilize technology to make a difference in a child’s education. Yet these very schools that deserve the benefits of eRate the most are often reluctant to apply because they feel the paperwork is too complicated. The rules of eligibility are written in a way that a Philadelphia lawyer could barely understand, let alone a lone IT manager in a small school district.
Continuing to fan the flames of fraud and abuse and creating the impression that it is rampant does nothing to encourage the increased use of eRate by the very school districts that need it most. Why don’t you write instead about the millions of children that eRate has helped by making technology accessible to underserved students?
–John Hughes, New Hope Technology Foundation, Chapel Hill, N.C.