Two U.S. bishops applauded a proposal by the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission that would help provide sustainable broadband capacity to Catholic schools. In a November 18 letter, Archbishop George J. Lucas of Omaha and Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City expressed their appreciation and support for the proposal of FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to permanently increase the funding level of the E-Rate program. The proposal is subject to a vote of the full Commission, Dec. 11.
“The E-rate program is a vital resource to the Catholic schools in the United States and an important means for ensuring all children have access to the internet,” wrote Archbishop Lucas and Bishop Wester. “Last year, Catholic schools educated 1,974,578 students in 6,594 Catholic schools, 3,200 of which participated in the E-Rate program.”
Archbishop Lucas and Bishop Wester chair, respectively, the Committees on Catholic Education and Communications of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The bishops said the E-Rate program, while successful in helping schools gain access to telecommunications services, the Internet and other technology funds, has been “consistently and severely underfunded.” They said the proposal to fund the E-Rate program at $3.9 billion annually will allow public and private schools previously unable to participate in the program “to provide 21st century education and learning with the additional funding connecting students and their teachers to high-speed broadband.”
They noted the difference the proposed funding would make in the lives of Catholic school students: “It will improve Catholic student outcomes by allowing our teachers to take full advantage of the online and digital resources and tools needed to transform teaching and learning. Finally, the additional funding will ensure adequate access to connectivity, including a focus on our schools in disadvantaged communities so that everyone, everywhere – rural, urban and suburban – has access to sufficient capacity. Catholic schools have a rich tradition of educating the disadvantaged and the underserved children in this country and doing it well.”
Full text of the letter is available online: http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/how-we-teach/catholic-education/public-policy/upload/E-Rate_Letter_to_Chairman_Wheeler-Nov__18-Final-2.pdf