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Growing Bipartisan Support for ConnectED

The LEAD Commission previews its release of a five-point blueprint outlining actions to accelerate the expansion of digital learning in schools, a new initiative President Obama announced last week.

Last week, the President issued a new challenge for our nation – one that families, businesses, school districts and the federal government can rally around together – to connect virtually every student with access to cutting-edge technology as part of a competitive, 21st century education.  The new ConnectED initiative he announced was a bold, transformative vision for America’s schools, ensuring that they have access to high-speed broadband and wireless internet to expand connectivity to more schools and libraries over the next 5 years. 

ConnectED will bring high-speed Internet within reach for tens of millions of America’s kids – and with it, it empowers more teachers and schools to harness the power of digital learning. As President Obama said in Mooresville, NC last week, “these are the tools that our children deserve.”  Connecting schools “will better prepare our children for the jobs and challenges of the future and it will provide them a surer path into the middle class.  And, as a consequence, it will mean a stronger, more secure economy for all of us. “

Since then, idea of equipping our schools with the connectivity they need has received wide support – including from members of the bipartisan Leading Education by Advancing Digital (LEAD) Commission, which Education Secretary Arne Duncan and former FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski called upon to examine how we can jumpstart technology use in America’s schools. 

This week, the LEAD Commission previewed its release of a five-point blueprint outlining specific actions to accelerate the expansion of digital learning in K-12 education in the United States – all of which would be supported through the President’s ConnectED initiative.  The final report will be released in the coming weeks, and in the meantime, the LEAD Commission is calling on federal, state, local, private and charitable sectors to embrace this bold vision of cutting-edge infrastructure; digital learning devices and innovative curricula; and strategic investments in human capital.

This is a bipartisan investment in our future, and our nation’s economic competitiveness.  To quote LEAD Commissioner and former Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, “this is not and should not be a partisan issue – it’s a matter of doing what’s best for the future of our country by investing in the digital learning resources that allow teachers and students to remain globally competitive.”

For more details on the ConnectED initiative, click HERE.

Here are some reactions from people around the country: 

Alliance for Excellent Education

.@BobWise48 on Obama #ConnectED: Effective use of tech is only way to put all students in fast lane to college/career

American Association of School Administrations (AASA)

American Library Association

“ALA is encouraged by President Obama’s announcement of the ConnectED initiative to ensure that libraries and schools have access to robust, affordable high-capacity broadband for many years to come. School and public libraries provide rich opportunities for students to actively engage and collaborate with peers and mentors using increasingly varied technology tools. As the digital revolution continues to unfold, libraries and schools will need substantially more powerful network capabilities. Inadequate bandwidth must not be the weak link in student success.

Like a K12 school, the public library is a multi-user environment. At any given point in the day a library can enable: a student live-chatting with an online tutor for homework help, a parent communicating with his child’s teacher via the online course management system, a high school student taking an Advanced Placement course online, a small class taking an online GED training course, students of all ages participating in real-time distance learning, and a professional completing a recertification course. These are just a few of the Internet-based services the E-rate program helps support in America’s libraries. Virtually all public libraries provide no-fee access to computers and the Internet, including WiFi.

However, the E-rate program already is oversubscribed and currently won’t be able to support the critical technological innovations needed in our libraries and schools. Thus, ALA supports this initiative to ensure that libraries and schools are able to connect students and patrons with next-generation broadband.”

-Maureen Sullivan, ALA President


"We're excited about the President's proposals.  AT&T has been very involved in tackling problems confronting our educational system, and we believe ensuring every child has access to robust broadband connections in their school would be a major step.  AT&T is ready to do its part to help make this vision a reality.

"As the President noted, the current e-Rate system, and the Universal Service Fund on which it depends, must be modernized for this plan to work.  The FCC has taken significant steps toward this, but much more needs to be done.  In particular, the USF contribution methodology must be updated to encompass more than the legacy services assessed today as we transition to the all-IP communications networks of tomorrow.  In addition, the very cumbersome rules surrounding the current e-Rate program simply must be streamlined and made more efficient.  We are convinced this can be done while still ensuring that the funds are properly collected and spent."

-Randall Stephenson, AT&T Chairman and CEO

Digital Learning Now

Today, President Obama will visit Mooresville Graded School District in Mooresville, NC, to launch the ConnectED initiative. As part of this initiative, the President will call on the Federal Communications Commission to take the steps necessary to build high-speed digital connections to America’s schools and libraries, to ensure that 99% of American students can benefit from these advances in teaching and learning; direct the federal government to make better use of existing funds to get this technology into classrooms and provide teachers with training and support to effectively use it; and call on businesses, states, districts, schools, and communities to support this vision.

This is an important step needed to encourage the reforms necessary to make the E-rate work better for today’s teachers and students. DLN has highlighted both the need for E-rate reform, as well as the model Mooresville has provided in how to reallocate budgets to support the devices students need to participate in digital learning opportunities. Under Dr. Mark Edwards’ leadership, Mooresville’s academic performance catapulted from 109th to the 2nd-highest performing district in the state (while 99th of 115 districts in state funding). At the same time, Mooresville’s graduation rates skyrocketed from 64% to 90% and 3rd grade reading scores jumped to 94% on grade level (African-Americans to 92%; Hispanic students to 91%).

-John Bailey, Digital Learning Now Executive Director

Consortium for School Networking

Keith Krueger, CEO of the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), today praised President Obama’s launch of ConnectED – a national education initiative to connect 99 percent of America’s students to the Internet. President Obama announced the endeavor today at North Carolina’s Mooresville Graded School District (MGSD). MGSD Superintendent Dr. Mark Edwards is a member of CoSN’s Board of Directors. 

Digital Promise

Digital Promise is pleased to support the White House’s ConnectED initiative launched today. Through the Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools, we help districts around the country establish and share best practices for an engaging, efficient, 21st-century education. We are encouraged that the daily needs and challenges of those districts are addressed through ConnectED. Funds for high-speed Internet access in low-income and rural districts will ensure all students can access a modern education. Professional development is the foundation for any successful technology implementation, and an added emphasis on teacher training will ensure these tools supplement, rather than hinder, the great work already occurring in many classrooms. And we are confident ConnectED will support the efforts of Digital Promise and many others in working with the private sector to create tools that directly address teacher and student demand. We look forward to our continued involvement in this ongoing work.

Education Super Highway

Breaking News: President Obama Unveils ConnectED Plan to Upgrade Internet for America’s Schools: K-12 schools need learning-ready Internet. Our students are being left behind.

All of our students should have access to fast, reliable Internet at their school. Internet that allows students to learn from compelling online curricula that is personalized to fit their learning needs – without getting bogged down by slow connection speeds. The problem is that 80% of public schools in America lack fast enough Internet speeds to prepare our students for increasingly digital education. 

International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)

“It's a huge step forward and a big win for students and educators everywhere. Broadband connectivity has been a core policy issue for ISTE, and we have been working closely with the Administration to support technology's value in preparing students for college and career readiness and to emphasize the need to provide our educators with the knowledge and skills necessary to make the most effective use of powerful technologies. We pledge our continued collaboration with the Administration and the Department of Education.” 

-Brian Lewis, ISTE CEO

LEAD Commission

“As members of the LEAD Commission and advocates for improving the use of technology in education, we applaud President Obama’s ConnectED initiative, which will make digital learning and E-rate reform a national priority by connecting 99 percent of America’s students through high-speed broadband and wireless in five years.  The President’s plan makes real steps to providing the resources needed for education that will allow our students and schools to better compete in an increasingly digital world.  As evidenced by the research we’ve done over the last year and the great example set by Mooresville, NC, real student improvement can be achieved with better use of and more access to technology and empowering teachers to use that technology in their classrooms. We look forward to working with the administration, state and federal policymakers, educators and business leaders to implement these reforms.”

-LEAD Commission: Lee Bollinger, Jim Coulter, Margaret Spellings, Jim Steyer

Former North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue

 "We must make our schools an integral part of the broadband and technology transformation because this technology is real, it is available, and its capacity to improve education is profound. Having a 21st century technology infrastructure for all learners no matter their age should be the one effort on which we all agree as we continue to better prepare our students and workers for the worldwide knowledge economy.”

-Former North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue

SHLB Coalition

“The SHLB Coalition applauds President Obama’s announcement of the ConnectED Initiative.  Schools, libraries and other community anchor institutions have a critical need for affordable, high-speed connections to the Internet to provide essential educational, medical, and information services for their communities. Together, schools and libraries ensure learners have access to technology-enabled and personalized educational opportunities during the school day—and beyond. From online assessments to interactive online tutoring and research resources, high-capacity bandwidth is essential to powering a robust educational ecosystem.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of schools, libraries and other community anchor institutions do not have sufficient broadband capabilities to take maximum advantage of these technologies.  Nearly 80 percent of school and library respondents to a 2010 Federal Communications Commission (FCC) survey say their broadband connections do not fully meet their needs. We are falling far short of Goal #4 in the National Broadband Plan, which calls for anchor institutions in all communities to have at least 1 Gigabit per second broadband connections. According to the National Broadband Map, most community anchor institutions have less than 25 Mbps. The President’s announcement today recognizes that more action must be taken to ensure that schools and libraries have the high-quality broadband services and technologies they need to provide their communities with 21st Century services.”

-John Windhausen, Jr., Executive Director of the Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition


“We applaud the President’s recognition of the transformative power of broadband in helping to address societal challenges in such critical areas as education. By leveraging wireline and wireless networks and technology, we can help change the way teachers teach and students learn, while ensuring students of all ages have the tools and training to enter the workforce and contribute to U.S. leadership in the global innovation economy for decades to come. Verizon looks forward to working with the Administration and the FCC to ensure broadband reaches as many of our citizens and communities as possible.”

-Craig Silliman, Verizon senior vice president, public policy and government affairs

Roberto Rodriguez is Special Assistant to the President for Education Policy and R. David Edelman is Senior Advisor for Internet, Innovation, & Privacy