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Letter to Representatives Rehberg and Markey (CO) Supporting Their Bill to Exempt the E-Rate Program Permanently From the Anti-deficiency Act

May 05, 2009

Dear Representatives Markey and Rehberg:


On behalf of the National Education Association's (NEA) 3.2 million members, we would like to thank you for your leadership in introducing legislation (H.R. 2135) to ensure that thousands of students, teachers, and library patrons can continue to access Internet services with the help of the E-Rate program.

As you know, the E-Rate program — the fourth largest source of funding to elementary and secondary public schools — has had tremendous success in wiring our nation's schools and classrooms to the Internet and providing other essential 21st century telecommunications services to the poorest and neediest schools.  In 1996, when the Telecommunications Act passed, only 14 percent of classrooms were connected, to the Internet and just 5 percent of the poorest classrooms were connected.  Today, nearly 100 percent of schools, 94 percent of classrooms, and 89 percent of the poorest classrooms are connected.  Despite this success the need for E-Rate continues, given monthly telecommunications costs and Internet access fees, as well as the need to upgrade internal connections periodically. 

In recent years, the E-Rate program was jeopardized by the application of provisions of the Anti Deficiency Act (ADA) that bar federal agencies from obligating funds without having adequate cash-on-hand to cover those obligations.  The application of the ADA to E-Rate dramatically impacts the processing of funding requests and the ability to keep a steady, reliable flow of funds to schools and libraries. 

We have been pleased to work with Congress to enact consecutive temporary exemptions from the ADA for the E-Rate program.  Without this exemption, schools and libraries are unable to plan, budget, and negotiate contracts with service providers.  Schools and libraries cannot continue to rely on yearly exemptions, but need to be able to know that funding will be available without interruption.

H.R. 2135 will address this situation by enacting a permanent exemption for E-Rate from the ADA.  We thank you for your leadership on this issue and look forward to working with you toward passage of this important legislation.

Sincerely,

Diane Shust
Director of Government Relations

Randall Moody
Manager of Federal Advocacy