Funding earmarked exclusively for technology in the U.S. Department of Education (ED) budget increased by $106 million for fiscal 2001, to $872 million. Factor in federal program funds that can be used for technology-related initiatives, such as facilities renovation and after-school programs, and the total amount of ED funding available for school technology in 2001 soars to more than $2.8 billion.

The 2001 budget includes a $25 million increase in the Technology Literacy Challenge Fund, to $450 million. This program gives block grants to the states for funding local school district purchases of computers, internet access, training, and software.

It also includes $125 million for the Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to Use Technology program—a $50 million increase over 2000 funding—and $65 million for the Community-based Technology Centers program, double last year’s funding.

The new budget also funds the Star Schools program at $59 million and the Technology Innovation Challenge Grants program at $136 million. Former President Clinton’s proposed budget would have eliminated these two programs in favor of a $170 million initiative called Next-Generation Technology Innovation.

“We are very pleased with the budget we’ve gotten,” said Linda Roberts, former White House adviser on educational technology. “This is going to really help us follow up on the recommendations of the Web-based Education Commission.”

The congressional commission Roberts referred to outlined a seven-step plan in December for using the internet to enhance learning opportunities.

Total funding for the U.S. Department of Education increased by $6.5 billion in FY 2001, breaking all records. “With this budget, we have now increased funding for the Department of Education by 76 percent since 1993—and targeted that funding to programs that work,” Clinton said in a Dec. 15 statement. Federal spending on educational technology is up more than 3,500 percent from 1993, when it was only $23 million.

“This budget tops eight years of commitment to education with dramatic new investment in our nation’s schools,” Clinton said. “[It] includes a historic $1.2 billion initiative to help renovate classrooms in thousands of school districts across the country… It nearly doubles funding for after-school programs—the largest increase ever. It increases by 25 percent funding to meet our goal of hiring 100,000 new, highly qualified teachers to reduce class size in the early grades.”

Some education programs are funded for the first time this year, including that $1.2 billion to repair and renovate America’s schools.

“Although I continue to believe that the primary responsibility for school renovation belongs to states and school districts, Congress was able to reach agreement with the Clinton administration on this issue,” said Bill Goodling, R-Pa., chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. “The legislation provides assistance to help states and schools comply with federal laws that mandate school building renovations, and the bill also allows for emergency repairs that are needed to protect students’ safety.”

Under the proposal, $1.2 billion would be distributed to states under the Title I formula, with 75 percent of the funds allocated to schools for one-time competitive grants for renovation. A portion of those funds will be targeted to high-poverty and rural schools. The remaining 25 percent of funds will be distributed through competitive grants for use under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or for school technology improvements, at the discretion of the district.

“I believe this legislation as a whole is an outstanding accomplishment that will help improve education in America,” Goodling said.

Funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which supports after-school programs (including technology-related activities), is now $846 million, nearly double last year’s $454 million. The class-size reduction initiative that will hire 100,000 additional teachers increased by 25 percent, to $1.6 billion.

The overall federal budget also includes a $30 million increase for the Technology Opportunities Program (TOP), which is distributed by the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration. TOP funds innovative projects that strengthen local communities by fostering communication and collaboration through electronic networks. This year, funding for TOP will triple, to $42.5 million.

In addition, the National Science Foundation will receive the largest one-year increase ever, $526 million, to pursue scientific breakthroughs in core scientific areas, as well as new ones like nano-technology.

The overall budget also provides $142 million for research, development, and support for programs to make information and communications technologies more accessible for people with disabilities and to make assistive technologies more affordable.

Links:

U.S. Department of Education’s FY 2001 Budget http://www.ed.gov/offices/OUS/budget.html

White House
http://www.whitehouse.gov