By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Tuesday, February 23, the Alabama House of Representative voted to pass the Wireless Infrastructure Renovation for Education Act, which is more commonly known as the “WIRED Act” or the Alabama Ahead Act. The legislation would provide wireless broadband access in all of the state’s K-12 public schools.
The WIRED Act, House Bill 41, was sponsored by State Rep. Donnie Chesteen (R-Geneva). Chesteen said, “Passage of the WIRED Act will place Alabama first in the nation in terms of broadband access in public school classrooms. For many years, Alabama was at the bottom of most public school performance measures, but this legislation will allow us to lead the way in providing 21st Century technology and infrastructure without making additional demands on Alabama taxpayers.”
The Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) said, “Thanks to the tireless work of Rep. Donnie Chesteen the Alabama House today unanimously passed the WIRED Act, which places Alabama first in the nation for broadband access in public school classrooms. The passage of this bill completes the Alabama House Republican Caucus’ 2016 ‘Right for Alabama’ Legislative Agenda.”
School Systems will be able to use the money to purchase wireless devices, pay off existing debt dedicated toward wireless capabilities, or purchase other hardware or software needed to enhance the digital learning environment. Each school system would be required to develop a detailed technology plan, and the State Department of Education would provide a report on implementation progress to the chairmen of both chambers’ education budget committees twice a year.
Chesteen said, “I would like to recognize Senator Dial for his vision and his tireless leadership on this issue and I look forward to continuing to work closely with him. If Alabama’s workforce is going to continue competing with other states for jobs, investment, and economic development projects in the future, access to wireless broadband in the classroom is not just an option, it is an absolute necessity.”
Senators Gerald Dial (R-Lineville) and Jim McClendon (R-Springville) have been working on getting wireless tablets into the hands of the school children of Alabama; but have faced opposition from legislators who want to use the money for other purposes or want some detail or another changed. Rep. Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa) the House Education Budget Committee Chair has also worked hard to advance this legislation.
The bill, HB41 now goes to the State Senate for consideration. A Senate version of the Alabama Ahead Act, Senate Bill17, has received a recommendation to approve from the Senate Finance & Taxation Education Committee and is awaiting action by the full Senate.