On February 4, 2002, President Bush released his FY '03 budget request. The proposal calls for eliminating two successful community technology programs -- one at the Department of Commerce, the other at the Department of Education -- and increasing a HUD program that allows funds to be used for community technology programs but does not require it.
Echoing the priorities for community technology laid out in the FY '02 budget proposal, the Department of Education Community Technology Centers program, which is currently funded at $32.5 million, would be eliminated, in favor of an effort under the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Neighborhood Networks progam, currently funded at $20 million (divided between $15 million under the Public Housing Capital Fund and $5 million under HOPE VI programs). The President's FY '03 request for Neighborhood Networks is for level funding. There has been no information available, to date, as to exactly how the program will allocate funds, or if/when funding will be available on a competitive basis for community technology center applicants.
The FY '03 budget also calls for level-funding of $1 billion for the Department of Education's 21st Century Learning Centers program, to establish or expand academic enrichment opportunities for students and learning opportunities for their families outside of school hours-- during the week, weekends, and summer periods-- in school districts with high concentrations of poverty and/or low-performing schools. Money would be available to the states through formula grants, which are then distributed to local school districts on a competitive basis.
The Department's Educational Technology State Grants, an initiative to boost technology integration in classroom environments into which the Department's existing Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers to Use Technology, Technology Innovation Challenge Grants, and Technology Leadership Activities would be folded, is also be level-funded at $700.5 million. The effort would continue to provide formula grants to the states, which in turn would distribute half to all districts by formula, and the remainder to the most high-need districts, to acquire technology skills, expertise, and training resources. The President's request also includes level funding of $25 million for AmeriCorps/VISTA information technology training efforts directed towards students and teachers in low-income areas.
The biggest change, however, is the outright elimination of the Technology Opportunities Program under the Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications & Information Administration, which Congress funded at $12.4 million this year. To date, the three-year old CTC program has distributed some $100 million in matching grants to more than 200 organizations to develop or expand over 500 community technology access points and centers for information and telecommunications technology in the context of educational services and skills training for those lacking such access at home, work or school. The seven-year old TOP program has, to date, awarded 530 grants, across all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, and U.S. Virgin Islands, totaling $192.5 million grants leveraged by $268 million in matching funds from local sources, to support public-private efforts to develop the national advanced telecommunications and information technology infrastructure for delivery of social services -- including education, health, employment, and public safety -- to underserved rural and urban areas across the country.
These programs have proved extremely effective as evidenced by a new Commerce Department report, "A Nation Online" released on Feb. 5. The report found Internet use among the poorest households in 2001 increased by 25%, among blacks by 33%, and among Hispanics by 30%. Households headed by single mothers had a 29% increase in Internet usage, the highest growth rate among different types of households.