It’s an odd thing when an editor has occasion to regret the nearly flawless accuracy of a story published in his newspaper, but that’s exactly the case today.
In a story first posted to eSchool News Online on June 4, 2004, and published in the July, 2004, issue of our print edition, we reported evidence that President Bush intended to cut the budget for the Department of Education (ED) to $55.9 billion–$1.4 billion less than in the president’s FY 2005 budget.
Posh and piffle, retorted a spokesman for the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) at the time. The leaked documents that served as the basis for the report merely contained “routine procedural guidelines,” the OMB spokesman assured us. These would help federal officials begin working on their 2006 budget decisions, the White House said: “Such decisions are months away.” (See Bush FY 2006 cuts would irk educators; http://www.eschoolnews.com/news/showStory.cfm?ArticleID=5103.)
Now, as we report on the front page of this issue, President Bush has issued a federal budget calling for an ED budget of $56 billion–$1.3 billion less than in the president’s FY 2005 budget.
So, alas, our 2004 report was right, the election is behind us, and the White House has done exactly as it had intended all along, rhetorical subterfuges emanating from the OMB notwithstanding. “It all depends on what your definition of ‘is’ is,” one might say.
Callous disingenuousness aside, the reality of more than a billion dollars being lopped off the federal commitment to education would be an unkind cut, indeed. In a $2.5 trillion budget, a billion dollars might not seem to be that much. In normal times, perhaps it wouldn’t be, but these are far from normal times in education.
The Bush administration has seen to that. Its education cornerstone, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), is putting unprecedented pressures (and expenses) on the nation’s schools. Educators need every penny they’ve been getting and then some.
Time and again, ED has pointed out that technology is essential if educators–especially those in rural areas–are to have any hope of complying with federal requirements for highly qualified teachers, supplemental educational services, special needs students, and on and on.
Yet nearly half of all ED’s funding reductions would come straight out of the Enhancing Education Through Technology grant program. This vital program would not be trimmed or even sharply curtailed. No, President Bush would eliminate it outright–vaporizing the full $500 million educators have been counting on to acquire and implement the very technology ED calls essential to fulfilling NCLB and other Bush administration education priorities.
The irony is made the more bitter by events such as the Florida Educational Technology Conference (FETC). Just read the splendid, comprehensive report by Managing Editor Dennis Pierce, beginning on page 27, and you’ll get my point. Technology designed to enable “formative assessment” is the big news coming out of FETC, Pierce reports. And assessment–both formative and summative–is the big news all over the school field. That’s not a coincidence. It’s an outcome driven by the Bush administration–some say recklessly.
Be that as it may, educators and technology providers, it seems, have finally gotten the message. Educators are focusing as never before on what it’s going to take to make NCLB a reality. Technology providers are coming to market with solutions designed specifically to facilitate the effort. And just as this confluence of events is poised to take effect, just when the goal is clearly in view, Bush and company want to pull the plug, flip the off switch, shut down the funding that puts the essential technology where its needed–in the nation’s schools.
It’s like Lucy with the football, cruelly snatching it away just as Charlie Brown hauls off to kick it.
Only one old fact sustains me in these mean times. It’s what my civics teacher taught me long before education technology meant much more than a movie reel and a slide projector.
Educators and education advocates can come together right now and throughout the coming months. We can strive to educate members of Congress about the devastating effect Bush’s proposed ed-tech cuts will have on the quality of learning in America. If we can come together, starting now, and make a sustained, concerted effort, perhaps the funding–or at least a major slice of it–can be preserved.
Doing this might be our last best hope this year, but it could be an effective strategy–because as my wise, old civics teacher used to say: “The president proposes, but Congress disposes.”
Let’s encourage lawmakers to give the 2006 ed-tech budget proposal the disposal it deserves.