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   DataBus - Vol 40 No 2: February-March, 2000
California Takes the E-rate

Depending on the season, the mention of "E-rate" brings reactions of joy, hate, and sometimes confusion. Nonetheless, California's public schools are taking part in E-rate discounts at an increasing rate. For Year 2 (1999-2000), over $248 million in discounts has been set aside for California's public schools, and 77% of that will go toward internal connections (wiring and networking apparatus). Although Year 3 (2000-2001) participation will not be known until the spring, over 36,000 applications were received nationally by the federal E-rate authorities (SLD) as of January 19, 2000, an increase over the prior year.
The first-ever statewide meeting of E-rate leads will occur March 1 in Sacramento. Each county office of education (COE) E-rate lead has details. This is an invitational meeting to assist in setting strategic priorities for E-rate support as we move toward the Year 4 cycle.
One troubling aspect of E-rate is the completion rate of projects and the filing of the final forms (e.g., Form 486). For Year 1, as of November 4, 1999, 696 California applicants had not claimed the discounts set aside for them, totaling millions in discounts. Some of this is due to applicants not starting or completing the projects, filing a Form 486 without a service start date, and just the clerical scheduling of "taking care of paperwork." This list may be seen at: http://www.cde.ca.gov/ftpbranch/retdiv/k12/e-rate/11-4-99.htm and copies of the Form 486 are available at: http://www.sl.universalservice.org. An applicant may wish to contact the SLD Client Service Bureau at (888) 203-8100 or via email at: .
Through the dedicated work of educational technologists, teachers, principals, chief business officers, and associations like CEDPA, California has been able to establish a basic support system for those involved in E-rate. It starts with the school applicant, who works with the district. At the next level, each COE has an E-rate lead contact who handles or redirects inquiries. The California Department of Education (CDE) handles inquiries as well, and is active in representing California at the federal level with E-rate implementation.
Technology plan checking is an area where cooperation among various entities is working. School plans are approved by their district, whose plans are approved by their COE. The CDE approves the COE plans. The plan minimums are that each plan contains the 5 federal (SLD) components, is at least 3 years in duration, and expires no sooner than June 2001. An approved plan is one of the first items requested if there is a program audit. You may download the plan-checking forms at: http://www.cde.ca.gov/erate/ under the December 3, 1999 posting.
Those applying for Year 3 E-rate discounts should hear from the SLD in the spring, hopefully enough in advance of the start of the fiscal year to arrange for projects needing completion in the summer months.
The CDE has also just released a revised request for proposal (RFA) for a statewide contract to provide "Professional Development and Resources for Technology Support Staff." Many CEDPA members have been associated with this RFA, and we hope this needed service can be provided by a successful district or COE applicant. The RFA may be viewed at: http://www.cde.ca.gov/sets/.
For CDE E-rate news, please see: http://www.cde.ca.gov/erate/.
Van Wilkinson is with the California Department of Education Educational Technology Office. He may be reached at (716) 323-4709 or by e-mail at