The leading software company works as a social good nonprofit providing education and learning solutions for students across the USA. Using its Bookshare platform, it offers the largest online library of accessible books free of charge to all U.S. school districts.
Using this award, Benetech aims to reach more than 200,000 additional students who will get personalized access to more than 800,000 books available on Bookshare. During the five-year period, the company will provide more than 4 million downloads of ebooks to qualified students. Additionally, it will work in collaboration with publishers through Benetech’s Global Certified Accessible and Born Accessible platforms to ensure accessibility features are available in more than 50% of educational books by 2022, at the production stage. One of the goals of this project is to ensure all students have equal opportunity and a level playing field for access to the education curriculum. So far, the company has reached more than half a million students in both rural and urban districts across all the 50 states.
Staying True to Benetech’s Vision
The award by the U.S. Department of Education will enable Benetech to have a lasting impact on the education sector using proven software for social good. This way the company will be able to meet unmet social needs, offer prototypes to solve these problems, and scale the solutions for systemic change in the education sector.
A lot of people worldwide have criticized President Donald Trump for selecting Betsy DeVos to head the Department of Education. Some critics have believed that he chose someone who has zero experience with public schools because she wouldn’t be needed for long, and that he and Republicans have been planning to eliminate the entire agency.
While the media filled the air waves, newspapers and websites in early February with stories about the president asking for prayers for Arnold Schwarzenegger because of low “The Celebrity Apprentice” ratings, DAPL protests and the Trump campaign’s and administration’s ties to Russia, the Republicans were quietly submitting bills for consideration, including the little heard of H.R. 899. On February 7, 2017, Republican Thomas Massie of Kentucky submitted a bill designed to “abolish” the Department of Education by December 31, 2018. The bill was co-sponsored by Republicans from mostly rural and/or heavily conservative states.
Massie claims that the Department of Education fails to take into account the educational desires of parents and local community and state leaders. Critics have pointed out that his argument is an old conservative one that mostly stems from white conservative dislike of certain topics being taught in classrooms, including sexual education and acceptance and inclusion of certain types of people like POC and members of the LGBT+ community.
Many educators argue that without the Department of Education, a lot of children in rural and inner city areas will fail to receive the level of education needed to succeed globally and with diverse groups. Additionally, countries that have national, centralized systems often produce better student achievement outcomes. Some conspiracy theorists and critics have argued that the Republicans are trying to create an even less-educated rural and inner city workforce to fill intensive labor jobs traditionally filled by migrants and illegal immigrants.