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Another Voice: New York must continue to invest in school technology

By Clark Godshall

Trying to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to high technology isn’t easy. In order for the 36,000 students attending component school districts within the Orleans/Niagara BOCES service area to become college ready and stay globally competitive, it’s imperative that we, as educators, deliver digital learning experiences.

As the information age reshapes education, our districts are proud that innovative technological solutions are taking place in our buildings.

For example, all grade and subject areas of the schools’ curriculum are now integrating technology initiatives by providing high technology/digital resources to teachers and students.

Our districts have pledged to grow our capacity for using technology to drive academic success within the constraints of limited resources. To compete with other school districts across New York and the country, it is critical for teachers and students to have available high-speed Internet access.

The Federal Communications Commission continues its leadership toward supporting school connectivity. In a move I wholeheartedly support, the FCC recently approved the E-Rate Notice of Proposed Rule Making. This action reflects the thoughtful comments, response and leadership of community leaders, parents, educators and students about the need to both preserve and update the E-Rate program.

E-Rate is a federal program, funded through telecommunications companies, that helps school districts afford communications connectivity, including the Internet. E-Rate provides schools and libraries with discounts that support affordable telecommunications and Internet connectivity. The FCC’s decision complements the ConnectED initiative to provide high-speed broadband access to 99 percent of the nation’s students.

E-Rate supplies just under $2.5 billion in discounts each year for advanced, affordable connectivity. As designed, the promise of E-Rate is to assure that all Americans, regardless of income or geography, can participate in and benefit from new information technologies. This program represents the single largest source of education technology funding for the nation’s schools and libraries and the students and communities they serve.

I continue to advocate in our state to support the FCC with respect to this rule-making. The conversation needs to shift from establishing connectivity to expanding connectivity, especially for the benefit of students from low-income families. This expansion will only happen with increased investment in the E-Rate program, whose funding has remained virtually unchanged since the program was created. The FCC can bolster digital learning by investing $5 billion in E-Rate, an amount that would meet current demand.

Clark Godshall, Ph.D., is superintendent of Orleans/Niagara BOCES.