Inside: Washington

GRANT PROGRAM OFFERED FOR CHARTER FACILITIES

The U.S. Department of Education has announced a new grant program that will help states subsidize charter-school facilities costs.

The department says that the State Charter School Facilities Incentive Grants Program competition will encourage states to develop and expand facilities aid programs, and to share in the costs related to the management and operation of charter schools.

“Supporting charter schools is a wise investment, and I encourage states to take advantage of these federal funds to create or expand their charter-school facilities programs,” says Secretary of Education Rod Paige.

July 1 is the deadline for submitting the applications. About $18.7 million is available through the program. The education department expects to award five, five-year grants, averaging about $3.7 million per grant.

E-RATE CHANGES COULD HELP SCHOOLS

New federal rules will result in more money being available to schools and libraries through the E-rate program.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has issued regulations that will allow unused E-rate funds from earlier years to be added onto the $2.25 billion allocated annually for the program. In some cases, funds are not spent because of cancelled projects or lowered costs. Officials estimate that the change will make an additional $420 million available for 2004.

The E-rate, collected through a surcharge on telephone bills, has helped schools make dramatic progress since the mid-1990s in upgrading their technology and connecting their facilities to the Internet. Schools and libraries receive discounts on technology purchases, ranging from 20 to 90 percent, based on the economic status of their communities.

For the 2004 funding year, schools and libraries have submitted 39,785 requests that seek a total of $4.278 billion for technology subsidies through the federal E-rate program, according to the Schools and Libraries Division of the Universal Service Administrative Company, which administers the E-rate for the FCC.

VOUCHER PROGRAM TO BEGIN

As many as 1,700 students in Washington, D.C., could receive federal funds to attend private school this fall as part of a voucher program approved by Congress.

The program, the nation's first federal school voucher effort, is being administered by the Washington Scholarship Fund, a non-profit organization. Students in grades K-12 whose families meet the income eligibility requirements can receive up to $7,500 for tuition, fees and transportation at participating private schools.

President George W. Bush has been a supporter of vouchers and giving parents choices in where to send their children to school. Proponents believe competition for students will spur public schools to improve.

“This is an historic moment for education,” says Bush.

FEDERAL DISCRETIONARY FUNDING FOR EDUCATION

2000: $35.6 billion
2001: $42.2 billion
2002: $49.9 billion
2003: $53.1 billion
2004: $55.7 billion
2005 (proposed): $57.3 billion
Source: U.S. Department of Education.
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