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How ESSA will boost ed-tech funding

By Dennis Pierce
December 10th, 2015

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The Every Student Succeeds Act includes block grants intended for technology, among other uses. It also opens the door to new state testing systems

essa-ed-techEight years after the No Child Left Behind Act was supposed to expire, Congress finally passed a bill to replace it—the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)—that gives states more latitude in deciding how to close achievement gaps. The legislation also includes a sizeable state block-grant program intended for technology, among other uses.

Although it’s not the program that ed-tech advocates had hoped for, many expressed cautious optimism that a section of ESSA under Title IV (“21st Century Schools”) could help schools use technology tools to transform teaching and learning.

“We’re pleased that the federal government has renewed its commitment to funding educational technology,” said Lan Neugent, interim executive director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association, in an interview. “It’s great to see that become a priority again.”

Aside from the E-rate, which provides discounts on telecommunications services, internet access, and the internal connections needed to bring the internet into classrooms, schools haven’t had a dedicated source of federal funding for technology since the Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) program was last funded in 2010.

Title IV, Part A, of ESSA changes that—sort of. Called Student Support and Academic Enhancement Grants, the program combines several priorities such as Advanced Placement, physical education, school counseling, and educational technology into a single state block-grant program. States then would pass these funds on to their local school systems.

Title IV, Part A includes three subparts, including one that speaks directly to technology in schools. Districts that receive more than $30,000 would have to spend at least 20 percent of their funding on activities that help students become well-rounded, and at least 20 percent on activities that help students be safe and healthy. The rest could be spent on technology, though no more than 15 percent could be spent on technology infrastructure.

Title IV, Part A, is authorized at $1.65 billion in fiscal year 2017 and $1.6 billion in FY2018 through FY2020. (The actual appropriations for the program could differ from these figures, as appropriations are a separate process in Congress.)

Next page: New state testing procedures explained

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About the Author:

The former Editor in Chief of eSchool News, Dennis Pierce is now a freelance writer covering education and technology. He has been following the ed-tech space for nearly 20 years.