Experts have been predicting that K-12 schools will spend more than $5.2 billion on technology during the current school year. Now, we have a pretty good idea of where all that money will come from.

The latest good news comes from the White House and the U.S. Department of Education (ED). At least half a billion of the new dollars will be flowing to your schools through two big programs at ED.

In the omnibus spending bill signed into law by President Clinton on Nov. 13, K-12 schools were assured of receiving $531 million from ED alone. Federal money also is earmarked for schools through the Federal Communications Commission, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and many other departments and agencies. Altogether federal spending on school technology probably will amount to near $1 billion.

ED now estimates that an additional $4 billion will come from state and local governments, and the balance is expected to be donated to schools by corporations and foundations.

The money from ED is certainly among the largest sources of federal funding, however. And the sum earmarked for your schools in 1998 is more than twice as much as came your way for school technology last year. A large portion of the ED money will be aimed at helping you get your teachers up to speed on the new technology.

ED’s Technology Literacy Challenge Fund will provide $425 million in federal funding for schools to buy computers and software and implement their technology plans through September of 1998. In addition, nearly $106 million in ED Technology Innovation Challenge Grants will go to show teachers how to use education technology and to fund demonstration projects that improve teaching and increase student access to technology.

Linda Roberts, ED’s special adviser on education technology, told eSchool News that the doubling of the Challenge Fund —from $200 million in 1997—was a tangible sign of the government’s commitment to the Technology Literacy Challenge issued by President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore on Feb. 15, 1996.

The President’s Challenge called on business and community leaders to join forces with educators to guarantee that every student in America can use computers and the internet to prepare for employment in the 21st century.

Here are the goals of the challenge:

• Equip all classrooms with modern computers;

• connect all classrooms to the internet;

• develop engaging software and networked learning content to help all students meet high standards; and

• prepare all teachers to integrate new technologies into the curriculum.

Roberts said the law reflects “an unprecedented policy decision” and credited President Clinton and Vice President Gore with winning congressional approval of the technology initiatives—one of the few issues in education to enjoy bipartisan support on the Hill, she noted.

“They both get it,” Roberts said, referring to Clinton and Gore. “They understand that schools shouldn’t be the last place where we think about technology.”

As he signed the measure in a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, President Clinton underscored the teacher-training component of the law: “I want to emphasize that a big part of this legislation provides investments to make sure that our teachers have the training they need to maximize the use of this new technology.”

Some observers, however, said the funding isn’t enough. David Moursund, executive officer of the International Society for Technology Education, pointed out that technology spending makes up only a small percentage of the total federal education appropriation of $34 billion—not nearly enough to wire all the nation’s schools and provide training for teachers.

“It’s really just a drop in the bucket in terms of the problem,” said Moursund. “The feds can’t do it all by themselves, but hopefully this will seed progress in technology spending.”

The Challenge Fund provides noncompetitive formula grants to state education agencies. Those grants, in turn, will be used for competitive funding to local education agencies (including local school systems) that are using new technologies to improve education.

The Technology Innovation Challenge Grants are intended to complement the work of the Challenge Fund by developing and refining new applications of technology that make significant contributions to school improvement.

The Challenge Grant initiative includes $106 million—an increase of 86 percent from last year’s $57 million—to support up to 30 new projects. Half of the new projects will focus specifically on helping teachers learn educational technology. The law also renews the funding for many existing technology projects.

The Challenge Fund was created by the Technology for Education Act of 1994, under the primary sponsorship of Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M.

“The primary focus has long been on obtaining high-tech equipment for our schools—and not on training to use it effectively,” Bingaman said. “Clearly, computers and the internet are effective teaching tools, and students who have access to this technology will be in a far better position to succeed in tomorrow’s work force.”

The technology funding represents the largest spending gain of any program in ED’s overall $34 billion budget. The Labor, Health and Human Services and Education appropriations bill was passed on Nov. 8 by a 352-65 House vote and the next day by 91-4 in the Senate.

In state-by-state allocations California will come away with $46.5 million, followed by New York with $37.7 million, and Texas with $35.3 million. A table of state-by-state funding allocations can be found at the ED site:

http://www.ed.gov/offices/OUS/Budget98/StateTables/techlit.html

For more information about the Technology Literacy Challenge Fund, contact your state education agency directly. Or call ED at 202.401.003 or 1.800.USA.LEARN.

Links:

Department of Education—Technology
http://www.ed.gov/Technology

International Society for Technology in Education
http://isteonline.uoregon.edu

State-by-State Funding Allocations
http://www.ed.gov/offices/