Obama’s Pen and Phone Are Now Tackling Education
“In his State of the Union address, President [Barack] Obama set an ambitious agenda to make 2014 a year of action: using his pen and phone to take steps that increase prosperity and opportunity for America’s middle class — including helping more kids prepare for college, gain career-ready skills, and compete in a global economy,” noted a Tuesday White House press release. According to the statistics cited in the official fact sheet, fewer than 30 percent of schools have the “broadband they need to teach using today’s technology.” The president’s ConnectED program seeks to rectify that problem by partnering with United States technology company to expand connectivity to 99 percent of American students within five years.
Tuesday saw the president give a report on the ConnectED program at a middle school in Maryland. The support of companies like Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), AT&T (NYSE:T), and Verizon (NYSE:VZ) — which will total $750 million in direct commitments and “many times more in discounted products and services” — was announced by the White House Tuesday as “major progress toward realizing the ConnectED goal to get high-speed Internet connectivity.” In addition, the Federal Communications Commission plans to put $2 billion over the next two years toward expanding high-speed Internet connections in schools and libraries, a figure double the agency’s current annual spending on academic connections. The additional funds are a down payment on an ambitious initiative, as Director Gene Sperling of the president’s National Economic Council told the Wall Street Journal. In his opinion, Tuesday’s announcement of $750 million in contributions from the private sector plus additional spending from the FCC constitutes “breakthrough progress.” Internet connectivity is “an example of an area where the president feels there’s a compelling national need that we can meet,” Sperling added.
Officially, the program was announced last June in Mooresville Middle School in North Carolina. “Today, we’re going to take a new step to make sure that virtually every child in America’s classrooms has access to the fastest Internet and the most cutting-edge learning tools,” he proclaimed. “And that step will better prepare our children for the jobs and challenges of the future and it will provide them a surer path into the middle class. And, as a consequence, it will mean a stronger, more secure economy for all of us.”