Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Why Is Obama So Desperate To Improve Internet Access In Schools?

President Obama has decided to tack on a $5 a year fee to every cell phone account for the next five years in order to raise funds to increase high speed internet access in schools around the country.

The fees are expected to generate $6 billion dollars in three years and sunset in 2017.

The move has generated a lot of criticism, but according to the NY Post, the Obama people just don't get why it has:

Obama is relying on the fee hike to avoid dealing with a Congress that White House deputy press secretary Josh Earnest yesterday described as “dysfunctional.”

“You would think that connecting schools to the information superhighway would be a pretty noncontroversial topic,” Earnest told reporters in Martha’s Vineyard, where the first family is on vacation.

Just why is Obama so desperate to raise $6 billion in funds to improve Internet access in schools around the country that he has launched an end run around Congress?

Could it have something to do with the high stakes Common Core testing program that his administration has been pushing, first through Race to the Top, then through NCLB waivers, that will force states to test every child in every subject using "high-quality Common Core-linked assessments"?

You bet it could.

There has been a lot of discussion recently about how the two consortia that are working on the Common Core tests are doing all their work for nothing if states do not have the technological capacity to handle the online tests.

Just yesterday, Gotham Schools covered that problem here in NY State:

The computer-based testing would allow tests finally to require the kinds of critical thinking that the Common Core asks students to do, advocates say. In the online tests dreamed up by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, screens replace bubble sheets, students type their essays, and math problems are solved by dragging and dropping answers. Expedited grading would return results to schools in weeks, offering teachers valuable feedback before the end of the year.

State officials have long signaled an intention to shift to the PARCC tests once they become available in the 2014-2015 school year. But they still have not formally committed to that plan.


But administering online tests would also require significant technology upgrades in schools. Schools would need to be equipped with computers and expanded wireless bandwidth to allow many students to take online tests at the same time.

A one-time windfall of technology funding will soon be available to needy schools to subsidize the costs of upgrading their infrastructure. But that might not be enough to prepare schools in less than two years.

“This is a huge undertaking,” United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said of the ambitious timeline. “There’s no way we would be ready for this.”

Thus we get an end run around Congress by the Obama administration to try and get a few extra billion dollars to give to schools to upgrade their technology infrastructure so that these tests can get off the ground.

And you can bet the fees will never sunset, that the extra $2 billion the federal government raises every year off cell phone users will remain in perpetuity.

Gee, I can't imagine why this end run around Congress in order to get money to fund technology upgrades so that online testing can be done in schools all across the country would be controversial, can you?

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