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EdTech Advocacy Day: Modernizing E-Rate a Policy Priority

The Washington, D.C., event brought policymakers and other ed-tech stakeholders together to discuss policy proposals geared toward closing the digital divide, putting Wi-Fi on buses and other topics.

The phrase “education policy” spelled out in wooden letters.
When ed-tech leaders from 21 states met with lawmakers last week to discuss 2022 policy priorities at EdTech Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C., they coalesced around the idea of modernizing federal E-rate funding for new expenses.

According to a news release, the event on May 12 brought together officials from the U.S. Department of Education, Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, Commissioner Nathan Simington and Commissioner Geoffrey Starks, following a virtual policy discussion in March. Participants also spoke about a range of policies to bolster ed-tech funding in schools and universities, protect student data privacy, expand student connectivity and close the “homework gap,” among other digital learning topics.

The event was led by ed-tech advocacy groups such as the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) and the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA), with the goal of identifying policies that would provide much-needed support for digital equity efforts and student access to digital learning.

CoSN CEO Keith Krueger said the event touched on the importance of utilizing federal E-rate funding from the FCC for ed-tech needs and expanding student connectivity moving forward. Among the most notable topics was a proposal to use the funding for Wi-Fi on school buses.

“A key thread of the event was the critical importance of E-rate, and why we need to keep evolving and modernizing it to meet today’s needs. FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel described her proposal to add Wi-Fi on buses as an extension of learning spaces,” he said in an emailed statement recapping the event. “The advocates encouraged the (FCC) to also expand E-rate to cover cybersecurity. We also heard from top leaders at (the Department of Education) about how the pandemic has shown the critical importance of technology in education and how digital equity is at the heart of what matters.”

Victoria Akosile, SIIA’s ed-tech policy manager, said such discussions and policy proposals will play a major role in closing the digital divide in education once and for all.

“We were thrilled to hear about Chairwoman Rosenworcel’s proposal to allow E-rate funds to connect school buses to Wi-Fi,” she said. “SIIA is eager to continue to work with policymakers and our partner organizations to finally close the digital divide.”

SETDA Executive Director Julia Fallon said she was encouraged by conversations about how to sustain and expand opportunities to make “everywhere, all-the-time learning possible for every student in our country,” regardless of region.

“State education leaders continue to be in a critical position to help school districts make wise use of any and all technology investments to provide greater equity of access to all students,” she said. “As the events of the last few years have shown, ed tech is about so much more than equipping classrooms and broadband access — it’s innovation both in and throughout our schools and the communities they serve.”
Brandon Paykamian is a staff writer for Government Technology. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from East Tennessee State University and years of experience as a multimedia reporter, mainly focusing on public education and higher ed.