Rell Would Sever Internet Links For Schools, Libraries
May 31, 2009
In a move that would conclusively close the door on the Information Age in Connecticut, Gov. M Jodi Rell proposed cuts Thursday that would shut off access to the Internet through the Connecticut Education Network — a fiber optic network designed to serve public schools and libraries in Connecticut — and drastically reduce the availability of information resources in other agencies.
Cutting $3 million in "Other Expense" funding for the network, would — in the very words of her proposal — eliminate "software licenses, Internet services and local/long distance telecommunications." Defunding would:
• Eliminate all Internet circuits in kindergarten through 12th-grade schools and all libraries in the state.
• Eliminate all filtering of "adult" content for schools and libraries.
• Eliminate service lines to schools and libraries in rural areas of the state.
Schools and libraries could — if they had their own means to do so — purchase access for themselves, but it would deprive them of the economies of scale. And it is doubtful that they could put contracts in place before the opening of school in the fall.
This defunding would also deprive the state of $1 million or more in federal "E-rate" support, which pays for part of the expense of the state's network.
And defunding would certainly take the state out of the running for any grants for broadband expansion under the federal stimulus bill — since it would be extremely difficult to demonstrate that Connecticut is committed to expand Internet access, as is required by the stimulus program.
Compounding this egregiously short-sighted move is the governor's proposal to cut funding for the statewide digital library (through the State Library budget) — which has supplied much of the digital content to schools and libraries throughout the state via the Education Network. All funding ($2 million) is cut, depriving — again in the very language of the proposal — "Connecticut citizens and students with access to a wide selection of databases and electronic resources to support their educational, cultural, economic and personal interests."
But the governor goes further, eliminating all funding ($675,000) for the statewide database program, which currently provides — but no longer would do so — "for free, online access to a library catalog currently including over 4.4 million titles to Connecticut citizens to find the materials they need."
Both programs receive 50 percent federal reimbursement, so the loss of all these services would save the state only $1.3 million — and force each and every library to duplicatively purchase these services on their own.
But the cuts don't stop with taking the state out of the 21st century. The governor also proposes eliminating funding for Connecticard payments ($1.2 million annually, again reimbursed 50 percent by the feds), which support the inter-library loan of about 4.6 million books and other items each year through 195 participating libraries in the state. Libraries that may currently borrow these books from other libraries will now have to purchase them, or see information access severely curtailed.
And the cuts keep coming — moving the state even further backward in history. Half the funding for legal books and journals is cut. All grants to public libraries are gone. Current funding for computer access for families with school-age children is eliminated. Overall, $5.4 million annually to provide information access to citizens through the functions of the State Library is eliminated.
And — just to make sure that Connecticut is totally ill-prepared for its economic future — all funding in the state Department of Education "to purchase replacement textbooks for the technical high schools" is cut for the next two fiscal years.
Welcome to the new age, Connecticut! Noah Webster would be so proud!
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at