Thursday, July 17, 2014

Governor Walker Calls on Legislature to Repeal Common Core

Late this afternoon, Governor Walker issued a press release calling for the repeal of the Common Core State Standards. In his release, Walker asks that the legislature pass a bill to repeal the standards at the start of the 2015-16 session.

The Standards were the topic of much debate during the 2013-14 legislative session, but Republican legislators were not able to reach a consensus on legislation before adjourning for the session. Senate Bill 619 and a substitute amendment to Assembly Bill 617 would have created a Model Academic Standards Board charged with creating new state standards in English, science, math and social studies to replace the Common Core State Standards.  The board would have been comprised of members chosen by the Governor, state superintendent of public instruction and the majority and minority leaders in both houses of the legislature.  The Assembly version was scheduled to be voted on in committee in February but the vote was postponed, and the Senate version received a  public hearing in March but was never voted out of committee. 

It is not clear if Walker wants to the legislature to act on a proposal similar to SB 619/AB 617 or create an entirely new bill. 

Several states, including Indiana, South Carolina and Oklahoma, have already passed bills repealing the Common Core State Standards.

The full release is issued below:

July 17, 2014
Contact: Laurel Patrick, (608) 267-7303

Governor Scott Walker Calls on the State Legislature to Pass Legislation to Repeal Common Core

Madison – Governor Scott Walker released the following statement calling for the Wisconsin State Legislature to repeal Common Core:

Today, I call on the members of the State Legislature to pass a bill in early January to repeal Common Core and replace it with standards set by people in Wisconsin.


Monday, July 14, 2014

Panel Discusses Importance of Broadband Access for Education at PSC Symposium

The Public Service Commission held a Broadband Planning Symposium last week to discuss the future of broadband expansion.The importance of libraries and school districts in providing access to internet services was highlighted throughout the symposium.  During a presentation on focus groups held by the UW Extension on broadband access, a key observation highlighted by Extension staff was that libraries in rural and urban Wisconsin appear to be undergoing a fundamental transformation in how they do business—they are becoming default broadband hubs and online training centers for their individual communities.  Libraries and school districts play a large role in providing broadband access, but many are experiencing funding cuts which make it harder to maintain or expand current services. Extension staff said adequate support for the state's public library system will be important as Wisconsin works to increase broadband access. 

Several area educators spoke about the importance of broadband for the future of education.

John Pederson of WiscNet gave an excellent overview of the current level of connectivity in schools and the importance of getting schools to one gigabyte.  He said that currently 40% of school districts hit the maximum capacity on WiscNet every day and that in 2010 the FCC found that 80% of school districts report having inadequate broadband connections.

Educators on the panel highlighted the importance of providing digital content to meet the needs of their students, but noted the challenges of providing one-to-one devices when students cannot access the internet at home. Melissa Emler of the Shullsburg School District and Don Childs of the Antigo School District discussed the challenges of providing high-speed internet in schools. Emler said that her biggest challenge as an administrator is the cost of infrastructure. Childs also highlighted the difficulty of getting broadband internet into rural schools where there are often no providers within reach of the school.

John Tanner of the Oregon School District said that every year his district doubles the speed of their internet—and they are still not able to meet the needs of their students. He also discussed the importance of technology for student retention, saying that students are most likely to drop out when they don’t feel like the coursework is relevant to them. Tanner said that increased use of technology in the classroom is important since it will allow students to customize their education.

The panel consisted of the following educators:

Broadband Technology: Shaping the Future of Education - Panel overview by Kurt Kiefer, DPI
Panel 1 moderated by John Pederson, Wiscnet
Greg Barniskis, South Central Library Service                                    
 Don Childs, Antigo School District
Diane Doersch, Green Bay Area Public Schools                              
 Melissa Emler, Shullsburg School District
Jamie Lane, ERVING
Michelle Nickels, CESA 9
Renee Nolan, Fond du Lac School District
Jon Tanner, Oregon School District

You can watch the education panel here and video from the rest of the conference, including keynote addresses by Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch and UW System President Ray Cross, is available here.

On a related note, the Public Service Commission announced the recipients of this year's broadband expansion grants, which were created in the 2013-15 state budget.  You can view the full list of recipients here

Friday, July 11, 2014

FCC Approves Increased Wi Fi Funding

The FCC voted 3-2  on Friday to approve a five-year plan to increase Wi-Fi access and update the federal E-Rate program, which will result in an additional $2 billion being dedicated to increasing Wi-Fi in American classrooms and libraries over the next two years alone.

After the first two years, the FCC will reduce the amount of funding for non-broadband services, such as pagers and voice services, and re-invest that money into Wi-Fi—the plan also creates a new Wi-Fi bucket within the new category two (formerly priority two). 

The FCC estimates that these changes will result in an additional 10 million students receiving access to Wi-Fi in their classrooms this year alone. And, according to the FCC's estimates, this increased funding will result in 3,238 additional Wisconsin schools and libraries receiving Wi-Fi funding over the next five years. 

The FCC’s two Republican members objected to the plan due to its potential to increase phone bills and decrease funding for other E-rate services.  They also raised concerns about the proposal’s method of determining funding allocations in the first two years by using a per-pupil and per-square footage formula.

In response to the two members concerns, Chairman Wheeler assured the Commission that this is just the beginning of modernizing the E-Rate program and that Wi-Fi funding was the focus of this proposal due to its ability to increase access in the current fiscal year.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

FCC Plan Would Provide Internet Service to 3,200 State Schools, Libraries

FCC plan would provide Internet service to 3,200 state schools, libraries


By Rick Barrett of the Journal Sentinel
July 2, 2014 10:01 a.m.

More than 3,200 Wisconsin schools and libraries could get wireless Internet service under a proposal to fund Wi-Fi access over the next five years, the Federal Communications Commission says.
The boost in Wi-Fi would cover nearly 851,000 students in the state, the FCC said in a proposal to spend $2 billion nationwide to get high-speed Internet to all classrooms and libraries by 2019.
Money for the E-Rate program comes from a fee that's charged on consumers' phone bills and is placed in what is called the Universal Service Fund. Last year, the government spent $8.2 billion from the fund, which has been used to subsidize phone and Internet service in rural states.
E-Rate, established in 1996, is the federal government's largest educational technology program.
Most schools and libraries lack robust Wi-Fi, according to the FCC.
"Despite the increasing need for wireless connectivity to support the latest digital learning tools like tablets and interactive textbooks, the E-Rate program currently provides limited support for Wi-Fi," the FCC said in its proposal, which is to be voted on by the agency's board July 11.
Nationwide, the proposal would increase funding for Wi-Fi 75% for rural schools and 60% for urban schools, allowing an additional 44 million students and 6,000 libraries to have access to the service.
This story will be updated throughout the day as details about the proposal become available.