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U.S. PIRG Joins 91 Organizations In Calling on White House to Open Access to Federally Funded Educational Resources

For Immediate Release

Washington, D.C. — Today, U.S. PIRG, along with a broad coalition of 91 education organizations, institutions of higher education, technology companies, and foundations called on the White House to ensure federally funded educational materials are made freely available to the public as the administration develops an Open Government Partnership plan this fall.

The call comes in response to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s (OSTP) request for ideas to strengthen the U.S. Open Government National Action Plan. The executive action envisioned by the coalition would build upon the Administration’s strong leadership in advancing public access to publicly funded resources with a strong Executive Branch-wide policy for the open licensing of educational, training, and instructional materials created with federal funds.

“The Administration has the power to unlock billions of dollars worth of educational materials – materials that can be used to strengthen workforce training programs and improve learning around the country,” said Ethan Senack, Higher Education Advocate for U.S. PIRG. “It’s simple – these are taxpayer funded materials and they should be available for the public to use.”

The coalition has outlined five core principles for Administration policy on this issue:

  1. Adopt a broad definition of educational materials
  2. Provide free access via the Internet
  3. Create conditions for resources that enable reuse
  4. Require prompt implementation
  5. Regular reporting of progress and results

Members of the public can join the call for opening up taxpayer funded educational materials by tweeting with hashtag #OERUSA. The full letter can be found at http://www.oerusa.org.

 

Background

The Federal Government currently invests billions of taxpayer dollars each year in programs that include the creation of educational, training, and instructional materials through grants, contracts, and other cooperative agreements. This investment produces educational resources ranging from innovative curricular resources to workforce training materials to English language learning tools. While these materials are created for the public good, they are generally not open to the members of the public who paid for them.

At a time when educational opportunity, workforce development and access to knowledge are critical to America’s future, these valuable publicly-funded resources should be openly available to students, teachers, businesses, workers and the public to use in new and innovative ways.

The availability of publicly funded educational and training materials could address key challenges facing our educational and job training systems. Currently, student outcomes suffer as school districts struggle to provide up-to-date textbooks, and require students to share books and materials. In higher education, where textbook costs are borne directly by students, the rapid rise in prices too often forces students to skip required materials, alter their course of study, or even drop out because it is the straw that breaks the camel’s back. This burden is particularly significant for community college students, where textbook costs comprise a larger portion of overall expenses. Ensuring that educational materials that taxpayers have already paid for are available for free could directly expand educational opportunities.

In issuing this statement, this coalition hopes to ensure that educational materials arising from programs funded with billions of taxpayer dollars are freely open to the members of the public that invested in them. The Administration has both an educational and economic imperative to increase access to learning and workforce development opportunities. Further, it has the opportunity to spur innovation through opening access to a wealth of resources that can be improved and built upon.

A copy of the coalition letter is available here: http://www.oerusa.org

 

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U.S. PIRG is a consumer group that stands up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in our democratic society.

www.uspirg.org