"The E-rate program was authorized by Congress as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (the Telecommunications Act), and created by the Commission in 1997 to, among other things, enhance, to the extent technically feasible and economically reasonable, access to advanced telecommunications and information services for all public and nonprofit elementary and secondary schools and libraries. Since its inception, the E-rate program has provided support for connectivity to schools and libraries and connectivity within schools and libraries, and it has been instrumental in providing students and library patrons access to essential communication services. When the Telecommunications Act was passed, only 14 percent of classrooms had access to the Internet, and most schools with Internet access (74 percent) used dial-up Internet access. By 2005, nearly all schools had access to the Internet, and 94 percent of all instructional classrooms had Internet access. Similarly, by 2006, nearly all public libraries were connected to the Internet, and 98 percent of them offered public Internet access." – FCC-14-99A1
The E-Rate Coordinator's office is responsible for the management of the national E-Rate Program as it relates to the LEAs, the Alabama K-12 Joint Purchasing Program, LEA Technology Infrastructure Planning & Assistance, Data Governance Policy & Procedure (ALSDE & LEA Assistance/Monitoring), the Statewide Professional Development Database (PowerSchool PD, previously STI, Inc.) and other duties or special projects as assigned.
Over the past years, the National E-Rate program directed by the FCC has provided an average of $51 Million in funding/discounts for our LEAs and schools for Infrastructure and Information Technologies. These technologies include Internet Access, Wide Area Networks (WAN) and Local Area Networks (LAN) to include Wi-Fi in the schools. The E-Rate office coordinates statewide efforts and supports our LEAs in all six phases of the application process that is a yearlong or more. E-Rate Support has been provided since the national E-Rate Program's inception in 1996. Over $770 Million in E-Rate Funding/Discounts has been awarded to the State of Alabama since applications were first awarded in 1998.
The Infrastructure, supported at discounts from 20% to 90% statewide by the E-Rate Program, not only provides Internet Access down to the student level for educational resources, but it provides the framework of a Statewide educational network. This network provides for data flow from the classroom, school, LEA, and ALSDE to other State and Federally required data reporting sources. Through our statewide student management system, school data is reported to the LEA level then processed, sent over E-Rate funded infrastructure and accumulated at the ALSDE for processing and reporting through a detailed and secure procedure. E-Rate is a crucial element of the ACCESS program providing the tools to our digital learners across the State.
The program has a very strict application process in order to maintain program integrity; however, E-Rate has been a primary source of Technology Infrastructures in Alabama Schools and Public Libraries across the State for nearly 20 years.
In support of the E-Rate Program and in accordance with the Title 16 Chapter 61E, Chapter 13B of Title 16 and other related laws within the Code of Alabama 1975, the E-Rate office develops and maintains the Alabama K-12 Joint Purchasing Program (ALJP). In addition to the E-Rate support, this program provides an Information Technologies procurement mechanism for LEAs and the ALSDE on a limited basis. LEAs may select from over 120 ALJP State Master Contracts in their purchases for Telecommunications, Networking Equipment including Wi-Fi, and other related equipment, Computers & Computer peripherals, Installation, and many other Information Technology categories. ALJP has been available since 2004. The program has expanded throughout the years to include many new tools that assist our LEAs and the department in efficient and cost effective procurement of IT equipment and services.
The E-Rate office continuously provides LEA support in the form of advice and leadership to meet their local needs in education related technology. E-Rate provides assistance and guidance in the development and final approval of LEA Technology Planning to include inventory reporting and analysis of data gathered. The E-Rate office combines inventory data, E-Rate Program data, ALJP data and other data points to develop reports as needed by ALSDE, the Legislature and other stakeholders. The E-Rate office, in collaboration with the Education Technology office, has developed and engages in a continuous process of improving the online database for LEAs to provide various school technology inventory related data. This office also assisted with the development and implementation of the Alabama Ahead Act to improve Wi-Fi (Wireless Local Area Networks) in all schools across the State. In collaboration with the Information Services office, the E-Rate office provides offsite and onsite assistance to LEAs and Schools that request assistance with their local area networks, wide area networks and design. The E-Rate office also serves as a liaison in communications with the LEAs and various offices in the ALSDE in matters related to data collections and technology policies.
The E-Rate Office provides Data Governance functions at both the LEA and ALSDE levels. Per approved Alabama State Board of Education Resolution, "DATA USE AND GOVERNANCE POLICY", it has been the E-Rate office's charge to lead the department's efforts and coordinate the LEAs' efforts in meeting the Resolution requirements. Guidance and support is provided to LEAs and their schools in respect to these BOE requirements in Data Governance and Policies. The office also performs the monitoring of LEAs as required.
The E-Rate Coordinator currently serves as the Data Governance Committee Chairman and facilitates the monthly meetings and the agendas. Through this committee the department procedures, as related to the aforementioned Data Use and Governance Policy, are developed. External Data Requests are reviewed for approval and further processing. All factors that may affect data collections at the school, LEA and State level are reviewed and documented. The E-Rate Office oversees and supervises the development, implementation and evaluation of the Data Governance Committee rulings. Additional tasks in this capacity include the confirmation of FERPA compliant data to be posted on the ALSDE public website, review and confirmation process of data reported in State Reports Cards, Quick Facts and other publicly reported data.
This program provides a mechanism for our teachers to create a training history containing all their professional development. This training history can be presented to Educator Certification for renewal of their Alabama Educator Certificate. Providers of professional development opportunities are able to list their offerings via this program so that prospective educators can enroll in courses of their choice. The E-Rate Office provides support and training to both providers of courses and educators in use of the program.