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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

eSN goes WWN

It looks like eSchoolNews is taking a page out the tabloid playbook with the headline "Unused eRate funding totals billions."

OK, first off, it's "E-Rate," not "eRate." I don't care much for the hypen, either, but we don't get to change the name the program because we don't like it. It would be like using "E-SchoolNews," just because I liked the hyphen.

But the real issue is that I find the headline (and the rest of the article) misleading and harmful to the program. It makes it seem as if there are billions of dollars being wasted, which is wrong.

The first paragraph of the story is even worse: "About $5 billion of the estimated $19.5 billion in eRate [sic] funds committed to schools and libraries from 1998 to 2006 were never used, according to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO)."

Incorrect. It is probably true that schools and libraries spent about $5 billion less than was committed to them (though I have my doubts about the GAO's numbers), but it is not true that the funds "were never used." Some of that funding is being held in reserve, because the arduous application process means that there may still be some expenditures from those funding years. The rest of the money has been carried over into other funding years. Every last penny of that funding has been or will be used.

My paranoid mind already sees the GAO trying to take away our carryover funds, so I hate to see an inaccurate slam coming from what I would expect to be a sympathetic periodical.

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