Interview of Ann Bryant, National School Boards Association.
Date: January __, 1999.
The National Association of School Boards held a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington DC on ___, _____. Ann Bryant was the featured speaker. Most of her presentation, and most of the questions dealt with education budget proposals. Afterwards, Tech Law Journal spoke with Ann Bryant about the e-rate. The interview is transcribed below in its entirety, except for introductions at the begining, and a discussion of FOIA requests to the USAC at the end.
Tech Law Journal. What do you think that the level of funding should be each year?
Anne Bryant. Well, what was promised when it was initially proposed was two and a quarter billion. And I think that two and a quarter billion would go a long way towards implementing what is the nature of the program, which is not only telecommunications services and Internet access, but the wiring of our classrooms. We have looked at the applications this year. We have not been able to fund, except for the poorest schools, the wiring of the classrooms. We are funding all of the requests for telecommunications services and Internet access with the 1.9 Billion that was given to us. But, the huge majority of the applications had the wiring of the classrooms as their critical need, and we can't fulfill those requirements.
Tech Law Journal. There are some proposals out there to switch the method of funding the program from universal service to, for example, using the existing excise tax on phones.
Tech Law Journal. What is your position on that?
Bryant. We have no position. But, it would be undoing now a very rigorous, highly accountable system set up within the USAC corporate board and within that universal system. To change that would mean that you are once more spending millions of dollars changing administrative practice, instead of getting money out to schools. So, to change it now, I think would be problematic.
Tech Law Journal. I take it you would also find it problematic to send the program over to the NTIA?
Bryant. I think that when you have created a highly accountable system, which we have already done, we have an applications system -- this was not easy business. This was creating what is a fairly complex system. To undo that is just a waste of resources. So you would be creating a whole other system. Now, if you transfered the staffing and the strategy, and the programatic work that has been done with applications, online training of school boards, training of library folks, on the system. If you transfer the whole system lock, stock, and barrel, then maybe you would have a shot. But otherwise, you are throwing away two years of development. And school systems and libraries that need these resources now, and are finally getting them.
Tech Law Journal. How long will this program last?
Bryant. My understanding is that, like universal service, for as long as it is needed. I do not see technology going away as a way to increase productivity in the classroom. It is, when used corrrectly, it is innovative, it makes student learing flourish, and makes a very important development in how we reach students, and raise student achievement
Tech Law Journal. You would not like to see any legislation that would sunset the program after five years?
Bryant. The needs are so great. I, because I have been on the Board, I have seen the applications. I have seen the demand. We are so far, at this moment, from having true integration of technology into learning that I can't imagine that we are going be successful in five years. And, as you know, and I know, because I run a small organization, called the National School Boards Association, our Internet, our computer capabilities, only get enhanced every year, and therefore our costs don't decline each year. But we create new uses. Other costs are down. We are spending less on xeroxing and faxing, but we have an Internet site that reach millions of people.