I received an email from ISTE, of which UCET is an affiliate, with an update of some of the events that have happened on the national stage that affect education. I thought it would be interesting to our members to pass along some of the information. Remember to get involved in advocacy efforts and contact your federal Congressional Representatives to express your feelings either in favor or against any of the measures coming before them. Let your voices be heard, for example, on how you feel about the bill, co-sponsored by Utah Representative Jason Chaffetz, that would abolish the Department of Education. You can find your representative and their contact info by going to: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/ and https://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/
Remember, Democracy is a "contact" sport!
ISTE Advocacy Update
DeVos Confirmed As Education Secretary: This week, the US Senate confirmed Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education on a 51-50 vote, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking a tie vote. Immediately after the vote, Vice President Pence swore in Ms. DeVos. Thus, she has officially begun her job as Secretary. No word yet on whom she will name to run the Office of Education Technology.
ESSA Implementation: Also this week, the full House of Representatives voted, using its authority under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), to rescind regulations approved by the previous Secretary to govern the accountability and teacher preparation provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The accountability regulations established a timeline for states to identify and implement remediation measures for their lowest performing schools. The Senate appears poised to approve this repeal and the President is reportedly prepared to sign the final legislation. Should these last two steps occur, the CRA would bar the Department of Education from reissuing the old rules or approving new rules that are "substantially the same" as the previous rules. If the repeal occurs, it is not clear if the Department of Education can or will issue any new rules or guidance to help guide states in implementing those portions of ESSA.
Lifeline Program: Late last week, new FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced that he had decided to revoke the Commission's authorization of nine telecommunications companies to serve as broadband providers for the Lifeline program, effectively blocking implementation of the Lifeline program's transition to broadband. ISTE strongly supported the inclusion of provisions in last year's Lifeline modernization order that allowed low-income recipients to use their Lifeline subsidies for broadband and not just voice services. Allowing broadband support in the Lifeline program represents a significant step in connecting students without Internet access at home and helping close the "homework gap."
ISTE joined with 16 national public and private education and library associations (which comprise EdLiNC) in condemning Chairman Pai's action in a joint press release: "This decision will significantly hamper efforts to help close the homework gap for thousands of low-income and rural students, preventing them from gaining access to online resources, to college and employment applications, and to their teachers and peers. We cannot understand the need to block the roll-out of the Lifeline broadband program now and urge the Chairman to reconsider this action."
E-Rate: Simultaneous with his Lifeline decision, Chairman Pai issued an order that would rescind the Commission's findings, issued late last year, on progress that the E-Rate has made in ensuring robust Wi-Fi in schools and libraries and broadband fiber connections to their buildings.
ISTE and its 16 allies called-out this action in the press release mentioned above, saying: "E-Rate has done more to connect America's public and private schools and public libraries in the past 20 years than any other state or federal program and EdLiNC remains steadfast in our commitment to ensuring the strength and viability of this program. We urge the Chairman to reconsider this action."