CTC Campaign
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The CTC Campaign: Funding Today — Universal Service Tomorrow Barry Forbes is Director of Community Programs for the Civil Rights Forum on Communications Policy in Washington, DC.

Barry Forbes

Computer and Internet skills are becoming more critical in today's job market. The economy depends more on information technology — and job re-training has become a national priority. For poor families, Community Technology Centers (CTCs) are a key venue for learning these important vocational skills as well as gaining computer experience and literacy through a variety of programs.

Fortunately, the U.S. Department of Education has recognized this and $10 million was allocated for the CTC program in 1999. According to Norris E. Dickard, who manages the program, which is housed in the Office of Vocational and Adult Education, the Department of Ed is planning on awarding forty to fifty grants of between $75,000 and $300,000 to community-based technology centers. The timeline between the announcement for a "request for proposals (RFP)," and the proposal deadline is tight (April 22- June 14).

The Clinton Administration has proposed increasing the budget for CTC vocational training in the 2000 budget to $65 million – but Congress must first approve this dramatic increase. Funding CTCs was one of the 1999 budget priorities of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). Thanks to the leadership of Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA), then chair of the CBC, Congress approved the $10 million grant program.

For More information:

Community Technology Centers, with Fact Sheet and grant application (Office of Vocational and Adult Education, U.S. Department of Education), www.ed.gov/offices/OVAE/CTC .

"U.S. Department of Education Launches Grant Program for Vocational Technology Training, Requests Additional Support for 2000," Civil Rights Forum on Communications Policy, www.civilrightsforum.org/ctcfunds.htm .

Budget of the United States Government, (Office Of Management And Budget), www.gpo.gov/usbudget/fy2000/pdf/budget.pdf . This is an Acrobat file of 377 pages and 1.6 MB in size. "Education Technology" budget narrative begins on Acrobat page 64/ printed p. 66. Specific mention of "computing technology centers" is on Acrobat p. 65, printed p. 67.

"The Campaign for Community Technology and Networking," Civil Rights Forum on Communications Policy, www.civilrightsforum.org/ctccampaign.htm .

"Impact of CTCNet Affiliates: Findings from a National Survey of Users of Community Technology Centers," (CTCNet/EDC), www.ctcnet.org/impact98.htm .

Testimony on Behalf of CTC Vocational Training Funds Before the Labor, Health & Human Services, and Education Subcommittee of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, Patricia W. McNeil, Assistant Secretary for Vocational and Adult Education, U.S. Department of Education, http://inet.ed.gov/Speeches/03-1999/00ovae.html .

The proposed $65 million grant program for 2000 would appear in the "Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations" bill. The U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee has already had a hearing on the bill. Tight caps on discretionary spending have already put this CTC funding in jeopardy. Rather than voting on the budget for the Department of Education and other vulnerable agencies, Congress has approved a "continuing resolution" to postpone budgetary approval. Republicans are using this tactic to break President Clinton's budget caps.

To ensure inclusion of the full amount in the appropriations bill, a Coalition of organizations and individuals have mobilized to conduct research, prepare educational materials, and lobby Members of Congress. The Coalition has already lobbied key U.S. Representatives and Senators—and was successful in getting a handful of Members to mention the funds in their letters of support for specific agency budgets. The Coalition has targeted CTCs in specific Congressional districts to encourage their Members of Congress to support this program. On May 25th, the Coalition hosted a Congressional site visit to a Washington, DC area CTC, the Gateway at Edgewood Terrace. To learn more about this and other policy initiatives, you can subscribe to a new electronic discussion list by sending a message to lyris@ombwatch.org , leaving the subject line blank. Use the following text in the body of the message: subscribe ctc Your Name.

This is only one example of how CTCs and their supporters can be engaged in shaping public policy that is beneficial to the people they serve. The coalition will be exploring ways to create an on-going strategy and program to keep CTCs engaged in public policy at the federal, state, and local levels.

Your involvement is critical in taking advantage of the tremendous window of opportunity for funding and policy that is now open. For the first time, Congress actually stated for the record that school and library access to the Internet was a part of "universal service." The combination of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and greater public awareness of the Internet has created a flood of funding and policy opportunities that will last only as long as the technology and telecommunications firms continue to focus on their own merger frenzy. Partners, alliances, and coalitions must be established now to build sustainable funding and supportive policies for the future.

Creating a community technology, networking, and media public policy program is the right thing to do. Only we can do it the right way. And we need to do it right now.