From the Publisher:The Cassandra conversion

Cassandra, legendary daughter of Priam and Hecuba, was an ill-fated Trojan oracle. Her renown spread far and wide in the Hellenic world, because she always predicted the worst, and because her predictions—though never believed—always came true.

Some people around eSchool News contend I have something in common with Cassandra—at least in matters political. When it comes to politicians, they charge, I inevitably expect the worst. On the other hand, that’s where any resemblance to Cassandra concludes. Nobody around here—and you may trust me on this—has ever accused me of always being right.

The most recent example of my not being right came as Congress belatedly passed the 2003 spending bill for Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, which included funding for key technology programs. Eyeing the $147-million meat cleaver the Bush administration held poised above essential ed-tech programs—Star Schools, Community Technology Centers, Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to Use Technology, and more—I predicted the worst.

I was thoroughly convinced the Republican-controlled Congress would salute smartly and shoot down the programs Bush had targeted. As we report on the Front Page of this issue, however, the intrepid lawmakers did nothing of the sort.

On a boatload of legislative issues, the Republican majority in the House and Senate has been largely deferential to the White House will. So why this well-founded, but surprising break with President Bush?

One explanation is that people of good will strive to do what’s right. Another is that “all politics is local,” as Tip O’Neill, the late speaker of the House, famously observed. But presidential candidates, alone among office-seekers, must pursue their office nationally. Representatives and even senators, on the other hand, have to face local parents and grandparents with children in school, not to mention teacher unions. For those lawmakers, support for education doesn’t just sound good. It’s good and sound—and a record they want to tout along the hustings. These explanations are not mutually exclusive. It is possible, after all, to do well by doing good.

Evidence has begun to mount that adequate technology does have a positive impact on student achievement, and the better the technology gets, the more it empowers educators to enhance classroom practice, introduce data-driven decision making, and focus resources and attention where the data show they’re needed most.

I’d like to believe federal lawmakers, both Democrat and Republican, understand this and simply felt so strongly about it that they funded those key technology programs in spite of White House pressure.

I’d like to believe that, so I will—for the entire month of April. And my hat’s off to those who took these principled votes.

To be sure, the funding from Washington won’t offset the huge and punishing deficits confronting the states and localities. As a school leader, you’ll still have to scrimp and scheme and use all your skill and experience to stretch what meager funding your technology programs receive. But $147 million from Washington isn’t chump change. Education surely will be better with it than without it.

Now, it will be up to all of us—educators and education advocates alike—to make worthy use of the technology resources still available.

Of course, old habits are hard to break. Confronted by good news from Congress, it’s tempting to start fretting about the possibilities of executive shenanigans. For those old enough to remember the Nixon administration, “executive rescissions” might be a dirty trick that leaps to mind. These rescissions became a tactic wherein the Nixon administration, displeased with certain funding allocations, would simply sit on the money Congress allocated, would just refuse to spend it.

But there I go again. Instead of borrowing trouble, let’s suppose—at least for this mild month—that the Bush administration will respect the will of Congress and the people and will go along quietly to implement the programs Congress has rightly funded.

In that case, I might undergo a change of character. Unnatural as it might seem, I might resolve to think good thoughts about our political leaders. Yes, in this new cheerful frame of mind, I might try to catch the politicians in the act of doing something wonderful. I might begin to put happy faces in my eMail messages.

If the Republican-controlled Congress can do the right thing by ed-tech funding, it would seem the least I could do.

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