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Commentary—Teachers still critical even with wired schools

California’s economy is booming. With state coffers full of cash, policymakers have rightfully prioritized education as an arena to direct much-needed resources for repairs and improvements.

Some have said wiring our schools for the Internet would be a worthy priority , helping to turn on students with the new technology and improve test scores. Without government spending, the cable industry in California has been pitching in to make this a reality. Four years ago, a national commitment was made to bring the advantages of high-speed Internet access via cable modems to all students and citizens through public schools and local libraries.

But, while wiring schools and hooking up new hardware is critically important, the most important component to improving education is not the power of our wire , it is the power of teachers. And, assuring that we have enough good teachers is harder to guarantee than wiring schools for Internet access.

Despite all of our economic successes, technological advances and lifestyle enhancements, our public schools are facing the challenge of a generation , a dramatic shortage of teachers. Over the next decade, California is going to need more than 300,000 new teachers because of retirements, enrollment growth and class-size reduction programs. Never before has there been such a desperate need for more and better teachers.

One-Stop Program

An important program is up and running right now to help find the teachers our children need. CalTeach , a one-stop teacher recruitment, information and referral center administered by the California State University , provides information on academic requirements, credentials and job openings to prospective teachers. Through the use of an interactive Web site and a toll-free telephone number, CalTeach is working to attract teachers who seek a career dedicated to the future of California’s school children.

Surveys indicate people become teachers because of the personal rewards , serving as a positive influence in the lives of children and being an inspirational role model. Many veteran teachers cite these as the same reasons they continue working in the classroom. The challenge is to communicate the personal rewards of teaching to prospective candidates who might otherwise be attracted to other professions.

To help achieve this important goal, the California Cable Television Association has partnered with CalTeach to spread the message that bright, dedicated people are needed to teach the next generation of Californians. The CCTA has helped by carrying this message to its cable viewers and reaffirming that few things impact our daily lives more than the quality of education in our public schools.

Cable’s Contributions

In addition to the partnership with CalTeach, CCTA, and its member companies, are committed to work beyond implementing cable’s high-speed education connection ,which provides K-12 schools with a free cable modem and free high-speed Internet access. To help teachers do their jobs better, cable has committed to assist with two other important programs:

– For over a decade, Cable in the Classroom has provided free educational programming to students and schools throughout the country; and

– Launched in 1997, the webTeacher program provides free teacher training for Internet use.

These programs are aimed to help close the “digital divide” and bring all students and teachers up to speed on the technology of the 21st century. We will continue our commitment to California’s educational system, and we will continue to sponsor and partner with programs that will improve the climate for success for California’s school children.

Society’s Building Block

Public/private partnerships are not new or unique. However, education is unequivocally the building block of our society, and it is our belief our partnership with CalTeach will also help California solve the severe teacher crisis it faces.

Given the unprecedented economic success California is enjoying, we owe it to our students to provide the best preparation possible so they can participate in and contribute to tomorrow’s prosperity. Ensuring they have the quality teachers they need and deserve is still the critical element , even in a wired world.

For more information on the CalTeach program, log on to (www.calteach.com) or call toll-free, (888) CALTEACH. Or contact the California Cable Television Association at (www.calcable.org).

Kaitz is the president and general counsel of the California Cable Television Association.

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