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|June 22, 1998|
CHAIRMAN KENNARD TELLS MAYORS U.S. FACES THIRD GREAT EDUCATION CHALLENGE OF LAST 150 YEARS; URGES SUPPORT FOR E-RATE
FCC Chairman William Kennard said yesterday that our country's education system
faces its third great challenge in the last 150 years - whether to make the benefits of
technology available to ALL children or to let our nation develop a "digital divide" of
information "haves" and "have-nots."|
He told the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Reno, NV, "The first [great challenge] was the decision to adopt the ideas of Horace Mann, and others, and make public school education the backbone of prosperity. We created a system of free public schools, encouraged Americans to stay in school longer -- and even created a system of state-funded universities. In 1954, with the decision in Brown v. Board of Education, racial minorities were included in this system. Now we confront a third great challenge: should the tools of the information age be accessible to all?"
To meet this third challenge, he said, our children must have access. Access to the communications tools that are key to participating in the information economy.
However, Kennard pointed out that only 27% of America's classrooms are connected to the Internet and only 14% of classrooms in low income and minority school districts are connected. The percentage of white children with home computers is triple the percentage of black and Latino kids.
"Increasingly," Kennard said, "kids who go to school in classrooms connected to the information network will be the grownups who have all the opportunities of the Information Age available to them. We have a way to make this happen. It's called universal service, and for schools and libraries it's known as the e-rate."
"Some in Congress say we must end this initiative to keep phone rates from going up. But phone rates will continue to fall. Some in Congress way we must end the e-rate initiative because they question the legality of the corporation that administers it. Well, not only is it legal, we are making it even more efficient. Some in Congress say we should discontinue schools and libraries support because administrative salaries were not capped. Now they are capped. Some in Congress say we should not support getting networks to the classroom, but the word "classroom" is there in the law. "
"The upcoming debate in Congress is no longer about side issues," he said. It is only about whether we do this important job -- make this important investment -- in our kids, our communities, and our country. We simply can't go down this path: the information haves would become have-mores, and the have-nots will become have-nones."
He said, "If you agree with me that connecting our classrooms is an investment we should make, I submit to you the e-rate initiative is the way to it. It's exactly the kind of national policy we need. One premised on local decision making, accountability for how resources are spent, and that leverages national, state, and local funding."