The State Assembly passed two bills of interest to WEMTA yesterday. They now go to the Senate for approval.
Broadband, TEACH: The Assembly voted unanimously to pass Assembly Bill 123. Assembly Bill 123 does the following:
· Transfers $6 million from the Universal Service Fund and $5 million from the Federal E-Rate Program to provide additional funding for the state’s Broadband Expansion Grant program. It also allows the Public Service Commission (PSC) to distribute an unlimited amount of broadband expansion grants each year—they are currently only allowed to issue $1.5 million in grants per year.
· Transfers all unspent funds in the Universal Service Fund (which currently provides funding for Newsline for the Blind, the Digital Learning Collaboration, Public Library System Aids, TEACH grants and Library Service Contracts) to the Broadband Expansion Grant program on June 30 of each odd-numbered year. It also allows PSC to use contributions made by telecommunications providers to the USF to fund broadband expansion grants.
· Requires the Public Service Commission to consider a potential broadband expansion grant’s impact on the ability of students to access educational opportunities from home.
· Extends the TEACH Information Technology Block Grant program to July 1, 2019 (it is currently set to end on July 1, 2017). The bill also allows the Department of Administration to award another round of Information Technology Block Grants to school district this year and expands eligibility for the program to school districts that have 16 students per square mile. An additional $7.5 million is transferred from the Federal E-rate Program to fund TEACH contracts.
State ESSA Plan: The Assembly voted unanimously to pass Assembly Bill 233, which prohibits DPI from submitting the state Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan without first responding to any objections by the Assembly Committee on Education and the Senate Committee on Education. If DPI receives objections to the proposed state plan from one of the education committees, DPI must provide a written response to each objection raised by the committee within 14 days.