Pam Gildersleeve-Hernandez, Micah Studer, and CUE CEO Mike Lawrence

A delegation of educators traveled to Washington D.C. to have their voices heard and to advocate for students and technology last week in the nation’s capitol. The focus of the advocacy efforts was on support for E-rate, LifeLine Program, Student Data and Privacy, and fully funding Title IV of ESSA.

CUE members Pam Hernandez (SLOCUE) and Micah Studer (CapCUE) joined CEO Mike Lawrence and Legislative Policy Consultant John Cradler as part of the Ed Tech Advocacy and Policy Summit hosted by ISTE, CoSN and SETDA with support from SIIA, the Center for Digital Education and Discovery Education. CETPA Board Treasurer Peter Skibitzki and Ruthmary Cradler of Educational Support Systems further enhanced California’s representation. 

The CUE delegation met with the Congressional Offices of Dianne Feinstein (D), Kamala Harris (D), Mark DeSaulnier (D), Jimmy Panetta (D), Ed Royce (R), Doris Matsui (D), Jackie Speier (D) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Officials from the Office of Education Technology at the U.S. Department of Education and the Library of Congress also received the CUE delegation for meetings that took place in advance of the Summit.

Highlighting the challenges of limited broadband access in America’s rural schools and providing specific examples of the type of learning that can be done when you have a strong teacher, the right tools and a strong internet infrastructure –  the team told stories of the digital divide between large and small rural school districts in California, the homework gap and creating learning experiences that not only impact student academic achievement, but also inspire them to learn more and open up the world of what is possible.

The work of Denise Hardoy, middle school science teacher and CUE member, from San Antonio Elementary School in Lockwood was highlighted. Denise and her students have spent the year working on a collaborative project with a neighboring school district, Rutgers University, Cal State Monterey Bay and Polar Scientists from the Palmer Station in Antarctica. Under her guidance and with access to connectivity, the students were able to meet virtually with the polar scientists to guide their research efforts. This real world learning –  that follows the NGSS standards –  allowed students to learn how to collect and use data from live video feeds of penguins in Antarctica.  

From Winters Joint Unified School District in Northern California, the work of the 1:1 Chromebook take-home program was highlighted in its work of closing the homework gap. Additionally, Winters highlighted Erate as one of the key factors in the evolution into a technology pioneers who advocate for connectivity across our communities as well as access to devices for all families.

Three of the five commissioner seats on the FCC are filled right now. Commissioners Ajit Pai, and Mignon Clyburn sent representatives who shared their support of E-rate and Lifeline. Commissioner Michael O’Reilly met personally with the group and spoke to his belief that schools are purchasing too much broadband and need to be monitored for wasteful spending. The story of San Antonio Elementary’s shared 100 MBs of broadband with four other rural school districts was used to highlight the continued need for investment in the broadband infrastructure for school districts that  continue to be underserved.

Commissioner O’Reilly shared his belief  that a good teacher and a textbook are all that classrooms need and that technology is no replacement. The larger advocacy team that included members from ISTE, COSN and SETDA provided examples of how a strong teacher with access to the internet and technology tools is able to enhance the learning experience for students.

Micah Studer described the event as “life-changing” as it has ignited a passion in him for advocacy for our students. Most importantly, he sees that the work of education advocates are more relevant now than ever as even a bipartisan issue such as education is becoming increasingly polarized. “We must come together on the common ground of education as pivotal to the creation of a robust democratic society. Schools are the institutions from which we will craft our future. We are all products of the beliefs and passions of those that came before us and we owe it to the next generation to equip them with the tools, skills, and experiences to engage with careers and professions that do not yet exist, in a global economy that values versatility and the ability to adapt as a key skill set for success.”

Pam Hernandez was grateful for the opportunity to share the story of her school district on Capitol Hill and with the FCC. She appreciated being able to advocate for the continuing needs of small rural school districts across the country. “The digital divide is significant,” commented Hernandez, “There is a moral imperative to provide equal access to current technology to support instruction that prepares each of today’s students for their tomorrow. Today’s student needs to be adaptable to to enter a society in which the demands and the needs of the work force will continue to evolve. Additionally, today’s student needs to be prepared for citizenship in a society with changing rules as they participate in a world of interactive digital and social media. Our students need to be ready to participate as productive citizens in a world built on the founding principles of our forefathers as well as being able to navigate the world of global and digital citizenship.”

Micah Studer is the Coordinator of Educational and Informational Technology Services for the Winters Joint Unified School District. He received his B.A. from Sacramento State University, Two M.A. degrees in Educational Technology and Educational Leadership from Touro University, and is currently working on completing his Ed.D. at University of California, Davis. He has a diverse background in teaching and educational leadership spending his teaching career teaching science and English in inner city schools, becoming a dean of students before moving to Winters as an Assistant Principal to launch the district’s 1:1 program. Micah additionally serves on the CUE Legislative Advocacy Committee promoting policies of access to technology for all students and families. He currently lives in Vacaville with his wife Heidi and their four children.

Pam Gildersleeve-Hernandez is the Superintendent of the San Antonio Union Elementary School District, co-chair of the CUE Admin Learning Network and vice-president of SLOCUE.

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