Educational technology leaders are applauding yesterday’s decision by a Senate subcommittee to provide $425 million in funding for the Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) federal block-grant program next year.

The decision, which still must pass the full appropriations committee before reaching the Senate floor, nevertheless gives ed-tech advocates a reason to cheer. Just a few months ago, it looked as if the program would be cut entirely from next year’s budget (see “Ed-tech funding in jeopardy“). Now, it appears the momentum in Congress has changed.

In February, the Bush administration eliminated EETT as part of its 2006 budget proposal. Last month, the House appropriations committee voted to restore $300 million to the program (see “House would restore $300M for ed tech), and the July 12 Senate action comes even closer to matching the $496 million total the program received in 2005.

“With this action by the Senate subcommittee to restore EETT funding, we truly feel that the momentum on funding has shifted strongly to our side,” said Keith Krueger, chief executive officer of the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), a national nonprofit organization that helps schools integrate technology. “Our … memberships will continue to work to convince Congress that EETT must be fully funded.”

The Senate action is significant, because EETT is the largest single source of federal funding for instructional technologies such as computers, software, projectors, interactive whiteboards, training, support, and upkeep.

Other highlights of the subcommittee’s bill include $12.84 billion for Title I programs and $10.69 billion for special-education programs, both increases of $100 million over 2005 levels; $1.18 billion for reading programs, an increase of $5.2 million over 2005 levels; $1.3 billion for vocational and technical education, the same funding as in 2005; and $21 million for the Star Schools program, which funds advanced telecommunications projects for education. President Bush had proposed eliminating these latter two initiatives in 2006.

Total education funding included in the bill is $56.7 billion, an increase of $132.2 million over 2005 spending levels and $490.3 million over Bush’s budget request.

The bill now goes to the full Senate appropriations committee for review, which is expected to happen July 14. At press time, the House version of the appropriations bill awaited the approval of the full House. Keep watching eSchool News Online for more details.

Links:

Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education: Details about the 2006 spending bill
http://appropriations.senate.gov/hearmarkups/07-12-05PRLaborHSub.htm

Consortium for School Networking
http://www.cosn.org