Members of a congressional committee on Thursday demanded tougher oversight of a multibillion-dollar program providing Internet access for public schools and sharply condemned reports of waste in Atlanta and other school districts, says the city’s Journal-Constitution. House committee members called for more frequent audits of school districts that get money from the federal E-rate program and suggested annual audits should be a condition of receiving the funds. Critics stopped short of condemning the program, which has helped wire thousands of schools for Internet access.
Since 1998, the E-rate program has distributed $12 billion to schools and libraries with scant oversight. The subcommittee has asked Atlanta officials to turn over documents by next Tuesday detailing how the city’s public school district spent $60 million in E-rate money. The request came after an investigation by the Journal-Constitution found that the E-rate program in Atlanta routinely paid too much for goods and services and bought equipment it didn’t need. Americans pay for E-rate through a surcharge on their telephone bills. The program is intended to help schools pay for Internet infrastructure they might not otherwise be able to afford.