Telecommunications Technology:

Federal Funding for Schools and Libraries

HEHS-99-133: Published: Aug 20, 1999. Publicly Released: Aug 20, 1999.

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Cynthia Maher Fagnoni
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed federally created or facilitated programs for helping schools and libraries with their telecommunications and information technology efforts.

GAO noted that: (1) GAO identified 35 federal programs in 8 agencies that could be used as a source of support for telecommunications and information technology by libraries or elementary and secondary schools in fiscal year (FY) 1998; (2) 10 programs specifically targeted technology, while the remaining 25 included technology as one of many possible uses of funds; (3) the 10 technology-targeted programs provided about $650 million in FY 1998 and about $1.7 billion in discounts from the universal service fund for January 1998 to June 1999; in 1997, 9 programs provided about $343 million; and in 1996, 8 programs provided about $102 million; (4) for the 25 programs not primarily targeted to technology, expenditures for technology cannot be precisely determined because programs do not track how much they spend specifically for technology, according to program officials; (5) with respect to funding award procedures, 22 programs use a competitive process, while 12 distribute funding on the basis of formulas and 1 program uses both methods; (6) estimates of administrative expenses for the 35 programs in FY 1998 ranged from less than 1 percent to 15 percent and estimates of the number of federal and nonfederal full-time equivalent positions established to administer the programs ranged from less than 1 to nearly 200, depending on the program; (7) while multiple agencies have responsibilities for managing programs in this area, based on GAO's review, GAO did not identify instances where two individual programs were providing identical services to identical populations--that is, had the same goals, the same activities or strategies to achieve them, and the same targeted recipients; (8) programs typically shared some characteristics and differed in others; (9) while focusing their efforts in different ways, both the Department of Education's Office of Education Technology (OET) and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) have worked to coordinate federal education technology programs; (10) OET's mission is to create policy and provide oversight for technology issues within Education and to participate in coordination activities and policy initiatives associated with education technology across the federal government and within the education community; (11) in contrast, OSTP focuses on broad national science and technology goals, and facilitates the development and implementation of federal policies associated with these goals, including coordinating interagency efforts to develop and implement technology policies, programs, and budgets; and (12) GAO did not identify information that indicates that fraud, waste, and abuse are systemic or widespread problems.

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