When it comes to ed-tech funding, a palpable gloom has been squatting over Washington, D.C., and it’s getting tiresome.
Not only does President Bush want to cut billions from next year’s education budget, but the feds also want to force colleges and big districts to spend up to $7 billion to help the feds tap internet phone calls over school computer systems (see page 10).
With new accounting rules, the feds will require schools to report future payments for health and pension benefits as current liabilities, a prudent measure perhaps that nonetheless is likely to choke near-term investment in infrastructure. Already, schools are spending 87 percent of their operating budgets on personnel costs. Escalating health-care costs alone now account for 10 percent of school budgets, according to the school business officials’ association.
Yes, the news from our nation’s capital can grind you down.
But hang on. There’s a strange, bright object peeking out from behind the clouds. And look: What’s that arc of beautiful light?
If it’s a rainbow, could a pot of gold be somewhere nearby?
Well, let’s see. Based on the reports now emanating from state capitols, the answer might actually be “Yes.”
When it comes to education funding, nobody really knows exactly how much Americans spend each year. The figure you hear most often is $500 billion: Half a trillion dollars–or 500 thousand million, as the British like to say. That’s what smart brains believe the United States spends each year to educate roughly 47 million students.
Buried in those $500 billion, you may be sure, is a pretty penny for education technology. The trick is to find it.
eSchool News and eSN Online have loads of ways to help you do just that–from the “Grants & Funding” department in this issue (see page 34) to the “Grants & Funding” resources at http://www.eschoolnews.com/tsc.
You should definitely check those out. But first, let’s get Washington out of the way.
Our President wants to cut $3.2 billion from the next year’s budget for the U.S. Department of Education. Now that has caused a little more than the normal amount of dyspepsia. And rightly so. After all, $3.2 billion in cuts wouldn’t be chump change.
But I’ve peered into my crystal ball, and here’s what I saw: These cuts aren’t going to happen–at least not to the extent the President has requested. Not in an election year. Already, the U.S. Senate has passed a spending bill that would salvage $1.5 billion of the ED budget, restoring nearly half of what Mr. Bush would take away. The House is still working on its version of the budget bill, but the odds are that the House won’t go along with all of the President’s cuts either.
Under the President’s plan, one of the most painful slashes in federal funding could come in the Enhancing Education Through Technology program–better known as “E2T2.” Education organizations have mounted a spirited campaign to save the program.
While the Bush administration claims a targeted program is no longer needed, the State Education Technology Directors Association (SETDA) points out that at least 14 states rely solely on E2T2 funding to support technology-related projects in schools. SETDA also reports that 40 percent of states use E2T2 money to fund reading and math instruction–major improvement objectives allegedly dear to the hearts of the Bush administration.
These dollars are critical to ed-tech. Saving them is critically important for all the reasons educators say, but even if Bush gets his way, education and ed-tech will pull through. Here’s why: At last report, 42 states were expected to end this fiscal year with funding surpluses. That’s 84 percent of the states.
Texas, for example, has announced an anticipated budget surplus of $4.3 billion. That alone would offset the cuts proposed by President Bush–even if his cuts were to happen. Better yet, the Lone Star State is by no means the lone star when it comes to overflowing state coffers.
And it appears that most states plan to increase their spending on education: “State revenue projections are up in nearly every state,” reported the Stateline news service, “and education once again tops politicians’ spending agendas.”
The total amount of the surpluses in state revenues this year is now projected to be $28.9 billion. Twenty-eight point nine billion in state surpluses!
How’s that for a pot of gold? Now, who says we never bring you any good news?