Ed Tech from a National Perspective


The Advocate, December 2014
Dan Domenech, executive director
AASA, The School Superintendents Association

It’s been a busy month for AASA with respect to education technology and representation at White House events. It makes me proud to see the school superintendency represented so well in both person and policy.

Last month, a group of AASA superintendents met with the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition. Later on, the 2014 State Superintendents of the Year were in town and met with the President’s senior education advisor. And just before the Thanksgiving break, AASA was pleased to partner with the Administration and the Alliance for Excellent Education for #FutureReady, a kick-off event for a series of regional meetings for Future Ready Schools, an initiative aimed at maximizing digital learning opportunities and helping school districts move quickly toward preparing students for success in college, a career and citizenship. More than 100 superintendents were in attendance, and I was honored to meet with President Obama just prior to the event. He thanked AASA for our leadership and for helping to make the event a success.

Beyond these high-profile White House events, it’s been a good month for AASA and education technology. We kicked off the AASA Digital Consortium in Seattle at the Amazon campus where a group of superintendents convened to provide school administrators with insight into successful models of best practices using digital media.

The FCC approved $1.5 billion increase in the E-Rate cap with a December 11 vote. E-Rate helps our schools afford Internet connectivity, a critical element to ensure our students have access to a 21st century education. This is the single-biggest permanent increase in an education-related program. While both IDEA and Title I received larger increases as part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, that funding was a one-time occurrence. 

AASA has advocated for the E-Rate program since its inception in 1996. We have advocated for an increase in the program funding cap for the same duration, an effort that became more defined in the last 18 months as both the FCC and the White House focused on ConnectEd and E-Rate modernization, working closely with the broad E-Rate community, including AASA. We have long supported a two-pronged approach, where modernization of E-Rate includes both programmatic changes and a permanent funding increase.

You will recall that a vote earlier this year moved on the first part, issuing programmatic changes (read the AASA summary). While we called the effort a success, there were elements of that plan—especially those with funding and cost implications—that left us wanting more, and the FCC’s very quick turnaround on this funding cap issue demonstrates the Commission is listening to the E-Rate beneficiaries, including AASA.

At a more granular level, the December 11 vote also addressed a change in the July vote that modified how schools are identified as rural for purposes of the E-Rate rural discount. The July vote defined any community with 2,500 or more as ‘urban,’ something that proved immediately problematic to AASA and other school groups. Our advocacy team convened a coalition of 22 national organizations—representing public and private schools, libraries and rural telecommunications companies—urging the FCC to modify the definition to more accurately reflect the reality of rural communities (read the joint recommendation). 

The momentum of this past month carries us into a new year and a new Congress, with an equally intense set of opportunities for improved federal education policy. We remain engaged in conversations on Capitol Hill, the White House and with our peers in a myriad of educational coalitions and work groups. It’s an inherent benefit of your continued AASA membership and I look forward to watching it play out.

Stay engaged in AASA advocacy. Read The Leading Edge, the AASA Advocacy blog, and follow the advocacy team on Twitter (@Noellerson, @SPudelski, @LeslieFinnan and @fm_duffy).