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Education United States

School Internet Program Audit Shows Fraud and Waste 387

Posted by michael
from the information-superhighway-is-a-toll-road dept.
uid0mako writes "CNN is reporting on the abuses of E-rate. E-rate is a government-sponsored program that provides discounted Internet access and internal connection gear such as wiring, adaptors and servers to underprivileged schools. One of the incidents includes $24 million spent on 74000 wireless network cards that never left the loading dock."
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School Internet Program Audit Shows Fraud and Waste

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  • from cnn: (Score:3, Informative)

    by ikea5 (608732) on Friday June 18, 2004 @09:03AM (#9461996)
    from cnn: The cards were purchased in 1999 for about $24 million, including supposed installation charges. The price is with installation charges included.
  • by makomk (752139) on Friday June 18, 2004 @09:13AM (#9462069) Journal
    It's basically the same story [slashdot.org] [slashdot.org] as told earlier.

    No, more like a new developement in the story (though anyone who hasn't read the previous story yet should do NOW!)

  • by tcopeland (32225) * <(tom) (at) (thomasleecopeland.com)> on Friday June 18, 2004 @09:22AM (#9462137) Homepage
    > The US public school system is
    > tremendously wasteful.

    The worst thing is that even if you homeschool your kids, you still pay taxes to support public schools. So you pay double - once for the homeschool books/supplies/etc and once into the maw of the Dept of Education.
  • by John Harrison (223649) <johnharrison.gmail@com> on Friday June 18, 2004 @09:45AM (#9462358) Homepage Journal
    Have you ever bid on a government project in Puerto Rico? We did once. The RFP was so full of irregularities that inidicated the process was corrupt that we complained and the whole thing got shut down. It was clear that the winner of the process had been selected before the search began and they were local and weren't qualified to do the work. This sort of thing happens all over, but the most blatant case I ever saw was in PR.
  • by velo_mike (666386) on Friday June 18, 2004 @10:26AM (#9462738)
    Then how do you find a politician who DOESN'T introduce new taxes? I have yet to find just ONE!

    SlashJames, may I introduce you to Ron Paul [house.gov], R-TX. Sadly, he may very well be the only one.

  • by burnsy (563104) on Friday June 18, 2004 @11:17AM (#9463224)
    Rush was reading from the New York Times and the network was built to support ONE school district in Texas.

    You can read the article here...

    Waste and Fraud Besiege U.S. Program to Link Poor Schools to Internet [nytimes.com]

  • by TheSync (5291) on Friday June 18, 2004 @11:59AM (#9463643) Journal
    Japanese students who expect to go to college take several hours of additional privately funded classes outside of school every day to prepare for entrance tests as well.
  • by RussDavisDotCom (733155) on Friday June 18, 2004 @01:57PM (#9464978)
    I invite all of you to investigate the E-Rate program further before you make such quick decisions.

    First of all, to clarify: The universal service charge on your phone bill doesn't JUST got to schools.

    1) It goes to High Cost telecom services (when Joe Blow built his house 40 miles away from the closest neighbor but wants phone service that doesn't cost $400 a month.)

    2) It goes to for Low Income telecommunications. Anyone that has 'life line' service (my grandmother has it, she's on a fixed income) that's very cheap so that she can call 911 if she gets sick. Without it, her phone bill would be affordable to her.

    3) It also goes to Rural Health Care to supplement the cost of providing health care to rural towns or locations. They supplement their Internet Access (for Medical purposes) and Telecommunications; without this, there would be a lot fewer resources available to rural health care clinics that may provide health care to 2,000 people who otherwise would have to drive 100 miles.

    4) Finally, it provides access to Schools and Libraries to help bring a low telecommunications cost for both the telephones in a school and for Internet Access (whatever is required from the ISP all the way to the classroom demarcation point).

    There are numerous regulations that must be followed in order to participate in the E-Rate program; I know this because I was an IT director for a school district. The process for filing is very technical and many school's applications are tossed out due to technicalities.

    SLD (the non-profit that runs E-Rate for Schools) has hired many technican auditors that are wise to many of the schemes that unscrupulous districts and vendors use to obtain more than their fair share. Honestly, the whole program is like with anything else dealing with money. If someone is willing to break the law, there is little you can do to stop them. Most controls are put into place to keep the honest honest. When someone is determined to scam a program, all the auditors in the world aren't going to 'stop' them... all they're going to do is catch them on the back end.

    I worked at a school district with over a 90% poverty rating. We had around 2000 students (it was a rural district) and could never afford to provide Internet access to every classroom if it weren't for the E-Rate program. We were able to be switches, e-mail servers, DNS servers, DHCP servers, etc. in order to build a network that will support the newest educational uses coming down the pipes. Most of the equip. that we used for these projects was carefully chosen because of it's survivability in a school environment, life-cycle, and cost (cost being the predominant factor). Even though we were only paying 10% of the cost, we didn't want to screw any other district that were trying to do the same thing we were.

    In the end, when I left, we had a great network that enabled us to slash our network costs because of not having to maintain old equipment any longer that was out of warrenty. We were also able to realize a HUGE cost savings (about 9k a year) with a VoIP phone system (yes, we did the Return on Investment outlooks... it still pays yields 9k even after we paid for it.), and we have video conferencing locations through the district that enables our kids in a rural southern state to take classes that would have NEVER been available to them because of our lack of funds and size. Our kids have access to great AP science courses tought by universities in our state. Our Internet access is now usable because of this program! Kids can do research w/o having to worry if the network is going to work or not.

    It all comes down to this: We changed the way our children learned for the better because of this program.

    So, before you condemn it... I invite you to ask one of your local schools how it benefits them; sure, some districts are going to abuse it... but the majority are doing exactly as they're supposed to be... trying to make a difference in an otherwise bad situation.
  • by josh3736 (745265) on Friday June 18, 2004 @02:05PM (#9465081) Homepage
    (This will most likely be lost in the sea of comments, but here I go anyways...)

    The problems is, you're taxing people in other areas to pay for your school's facilities. Schools are, and should be, local entities. If the local taxpayers don't want to spend the money to maintain the infrastructure, then why should you and I, who don't even benefit?

    Because you've done something for the greater good? And that's the problem, no one wants to do good unless they see a way that they will somehow benefit from it.

    And on the note of local funding -- no one wants to fund their local schools anyways, especially in the areas this program is targeted to. You go into a poorer area and say "Hey, we are going to raise taxes to pay for schools!" ...duck because there's gonna be a shitstorm.

    You say, "If the local taxpayers don't want to spend the money to maintain the infrastructure, then why should you and I, who don't even benefit?"

    The local taxpayers say, "If the taxpayers who actually have kids in the schools don't want to spend the money to maintain the infrastructure, then why should you and I, who don't even benefit?"

    And then the people with kids in school say, "I just can't afford it, and besides, isn't everyone supposed to help pay for the schools?"

    On a side note, here in Ohio, it was recently ruled unconstitutional to support schools exclusively through property taxes. Problem is, that's the only place districts really have to get money. The state funding system is entirely fucked up [choice.net]. Not only has the state bugeted money to districts, then taken half of the money away halfway through the year, but the entire funding system has been ruled unconstitutional no less than FOUR times [cnn.com]! (The CNN page says 3, but that is from 2002.)

    I wish that if I was doing something unconstitutional, even after being ruled against four times, I could keep doing it without consequence!

    Fuckwit politicians.

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