The U.S. Department of Education (ED) has announced that states may now apply for their share of the new $700 million educational technology block-grant program.

The grant program—called Enhancing Education Through Technology, or “Ed Tech” for short—was created after Congress combined several existing school technology programs, including the Technology Literacy Challenge Fund and Technology Innovation Challenge Grants, under the newly reauthorized Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

Ed Tech is a state-administered block grant program funded at $700.5 million in 2002. According to the grant’s newly-issued rules, the money must be used to improve student achievement through the use of technology in both elementary and secondary schools. Students must become “technology literate” by grade eight, and teachers must be able to integrate technology into their curriculum to benefit students.

State officials applying for these funds separately can download an application from ED’s web site now. States also have the option of submitting a single, consolidated application that encompasses all federal education programs, and most state ed-tech directors said they are taking this approach. The consolidated application is not expected to be available until later this month.

A state may use up to five percent of its allotment for state-level activities. Half of the remaining funds must be distributed to local school districts according to their Title I formula, and half must be distributed on a competitive basis.

To accommodate states that might need funding immediately to maintain services as they make the transition from their old programs to the new program, ED will award about $150,000 per state immediately. Every state will receive this transition money automatically, said Melinda George, executive director of the State Education Technology Director’s Association.

State officials are encouraged to start local competitions before they actually receive funding to avoid lag time in getting the money to local school districts, George said.

Completing the new applications will require state ed-tech directors to consult their existing technology plans, George said, and some might even have to retool them. According to George, evaluating the impact technology has on improving student achievement has caused the most concern among state technology directors, as they could lose future funding if they can’t document improvement.

Related links:
Enhancing Education Through Technology
http://www.ed.gov/offices/OESE/esea/regsandguidance.html

State Education Technology Director’s Association
http://www.setda.org