After months of political wrangling over the $360 billion federal budget, the U.S Department of Education (ED)’s technology-specific programs made it through negotiations relatively unscathed. All pre-existing programs received at least the same amount of funding as last year, despite House efforts to the contrary.
In all, ED’s primary technology programs will receive more than $768 million for fiscal year 2000, up $70 million from 1999 appropriations, though below the $801 million requested by the administration. The House proposed an educational technology budget of just over $500 million, and several programsincluding Star Schools and Teacher Training in Technologywould have been eliminated entirely.
In the end, however, only two requested programsboth new initiativeswere left off the 2000 budget. One would have addressed technology training for middle school teachers; the other would have funded software development initiatives. While all existing programs were funded in the budget, which was signed into law by President Clinton Nov. 29, a few came in below the level proposed by the administration, much to the dismay of educational technology advocates. Linda Roberts, special advisor to the White House on school technology, said she was disappointed that some programs did not get the funding requested by the president. Of particular disappointment, she said, was the funding level for the Community-Based Technology Centers program, which will receive $32.5 millionhalf of what the administration proposed.
“We can fund some new centers, but not nearly at the level we had hoped,” Roberts said.
Also of concern to Roberts was the outcome of ED’s two largest programs: the Technology Literacy Challenge Fund and the Technology Innovation Challenge Grant program.
The Technology Literacy Challenge Fund was set at $425 million, equal to last year’s appropriation but less than the administration’s $450 million request. The Technology Innovation Challenge Grants program was actually funded above the administration’s request$148.7 million compared to the proposed $110 million, though Roberts said all of that is already earmarked for specific projects in specific congressional districts. As a result, the department will not be able to run the competitive grant program next year, she said. Overall, Roberts believes that more could have been done to help schools with technology.
“There’s so much demand to do more, and there is a basic sense on the public’s part that these tools are important,” she said. “I just hope that in the 2001 budget, we recognize that.” Other technology advocates are also worried about the long-term implications of the 2000 budget.
“I’m happy that these federal programs are continuing,” said Talbot Bielefeldt, research associate at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). “But at the same time, I’m concerned that they weren’t continued with the spirit of long-term commitment.” The following table shows how each of ED’s technology initiatives fared in the 2000 budget, compared to the administration’s proposal and 1999 appropriations. The amounts listed might be reduced, however, due to the 0.38 percent, across-the-board budget cut negotiated by Congressthough no single program will be reduced by more than 15 percent, according to ED.
Also included in the table is ED’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which is separate from the $768 million educational technology budget.