Inside: Washington

BUSH KEEPS E-RATE INTACT

When George W. Bush defeated Al Gore in the 2000 race for the White House, many educators wondered about the fate of the E-rate program.

The E-rate has proven extremely popular with schools and libraries. Created in the mid-1990s, it has provided billions of dollars to upgrade technology and connect schools and libraries to the Internet.

At first, the Bush Administration wanted to overhaul the E-rate system. In his education proposal, “No Child Left Behind,” the new president proposed taking the money generated by the E-rate and consolidating it with other federal technology grant funds.

But E-rate supporters, Republicans and Democrats, argued that the program was working well and urged the administration not to tamper with it.

The administration relented and decided to keep the E-rate system in place. In July, the Schools and Libraries Division of the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) began sending out funding commitment letters for Year 4 of the program. The $5.2 billion in requests received for Year 4 is more than twice the $2.25 billion available.

THE NUMBERS SOURCE

Administrations may come and go in the nation's capital, but the number-crunchers at the National Center for Education Statistics continue to churn out data for school officials to digest.

For any educator who can't get enough facts and figures about schools, the center's “Projections of Education Statistics to 2011” is a bonanza of bar graphs, tables and charts. The 180-page tome offers statistics on student-enrollment trends, the size of the nation's teaching force, high school and college graduation rates, education spending and much more.

The complete report is on the web at http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2001/2001083.pdf.

MAINTAINING PRIORITIES

The terrorist attacks in New York and Washington last month have altered the political landscape in the nation's capital. Lawmakers are focused on the fight against terrorism as their top priority. But those trying to get an education bill to the president's desk say that despite the assault on the United States, educating children is still a top priority.

“We must not forget the hopes of tomorrow as we struggle to address the tragedies of today,” says U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

The attack delayed hearings on the bill, but the conference committee returned to work in late September and reconciled several issues. The conferees agreed to reauthorize the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which provides funding for after-hours services and activities in school facilities.

The version of the bill passed by the Democrat-controlled Senate calls for spending billions more on education than what the Republican-controlled House approved. The House bill also calls for consolidation of several federal education programs, while the Senate version creates new programs.

Some have questioned whether Congress would be able to pass an education bill before the end of the year. But a spokesman for the conference committee said that although the terrorist attacks had delayed the committee's work, negotiators were confident that they could quickly resolve the differences between the House and Senate bills and send an education reform bill to the president.

U.S. Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), Chairman of the House-Senate conference Committee working to reconcile the Education Reform Bill:

“Conferees are more determined than ever to complete work on education reform, which remains a top domestic priority. Our children are our future, even when our nation is at war. We have a responsibility to work together to finish what has been started. No act of terror will dissuade us from this goal.”

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