Two weeks after saying the United States needs to “make sure our children are prepared for the jobs of the future” in his annual State of the Union address, President Bush again proposed cutting from the federal budget the Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) block-grant program, which ed-tech advocates claim is essential to ensuring the global competitiveness of American students.

The president unveiled his $2.9 trillion budget plan for the 2008 fiscal year on Feb. 5. According to his plan, overall discretionary funding for education would remain at $56 billion, the same as in 2007–though critics noted that, after accounting for 2.5-percent inflation, his proposal essentially amounts to a cut in federal education spending.

Bush’s budget would increase Title 1 funding by $1.2 billion and more fairly distribute these funds to high schools. It also would raise the maximum Pell Grant amount to $4,600 and includes $35 million in new funding for the National Security Language Initiative, aimed at helping U.S. citizens learn “high-demand” foreign languages.

To prepare students for success in the new global economy, Bush has proposed new programs that would enact elements of his American Competitiveness Initiative. His budget calls for $365 million in new funding to boost math and science education, including $125 million for a program modeled after Reading First, in which K-6 schools could apply for funds to implement research-based programs to improve math instruction. Other elements of Bush’s plan are more controversial–including $300 million for private school vouchers, as well as his proposed spending cuts.

Altogether, Bush proposes cutting 44 education programs totaling $2.2 billion–including the $273 million that EETT will receive in 2007, as well as $35 million for arts education, $35 million for school counseling, and $60 million for enhancing teacher quality. Most of these same programs have been slated for elimination in Bush’s budget plans for the past three years, but Congress each year has voted to spare them.

Still, EETT–the primary source of federal funding for school technology–has seen its share of funding decline from nearly $700 million in FY 2004 to $496 million in FY 2005 and $273 million last year. Advocates of educational technology say this steady erosion of funds has severely curtailed many states’ and school districts’ ed-tech programs–and it makes no sense, they say, given the president’s stated commitment to ensuring the global competitiveness of American students.

“President Bush’s decision to eliminate funding for EETT fails to meet the needs of America’s students,” said Don Knezek, chief executive officer of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). “I simply cannot understand how this decision squares with the administration’s stated goal of ensuring that our nation’s students can compete globally and effectively in math and science.”

Knezek added: “The administration’s proposal completely ignores the vital role digital technologies play in those disciplines. Moreover, it turns a blind eye to the importance of exposing all American students to the technology tools and skills they’ll need for future success in school, work, and civic life.”

Keith Krueger, CEO of the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), had this reaction to the president’s budget:

“Once again, the administration has foolishly proposed eliminating educational technology funding under the No Child Left Behind Act. CoSN believes the Enhancing Education Through Technology program is a prerequisite to innovation and individualized instruction–two concepts that can make a real difference for improved learning and 21st-century competitiveness. … We hope that Congress recognizes the importance of EETT and increases our investment in our children’s future.”

Bush released his 2008 budget on the same day the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) issued its annual “National Trends Report,” which looks at how states are spending their EETT funds. According to the report, here are examples of EETT-funded programs that have shown great promise:

“In Missouri, the eMINTS program provides schools and teachers with ed-tech tools, curriculum, and more than 200 hours of professional development to change how teachers teach and students learn. Within the same schools, the achievement of students in the eMINTS classroom repeatedly has been found to exceed that of students in control classrooms by about 10 percent, according to the report.

“In West Virginia, students receiving access to online foreign-language courses have performed at least as well as those in face-to-face versions of the classes, providing access to high-quality foreign language classes for students in rural areas.

“In Michigan, students participating in the state’s Freedom to Learn laptop program at one middle school showed increases in eighth-grade math achievement from 31-percent proficiency in 2004 to 63-percent proficiency in 2005, and science achievement increased from 68-percent proficiency in 2003 to 80-percent proficiency in 2004.

Without EETT, SETDA says, programs like these “might not survive–and will certainly not be made available for all students.”

The Bush administrations says EETT is unnecessary, because “schools today offer a greater level of technology infrastructure than just a few years ago, and there is no longer a significant need for a state formula grant program targeted specifically on–and limited to–the effective integration of technology into schools.”

Districts seeking funds to integrate technology can use money from other federal programs, the administration says, such as Title I and Improving Teacher Quality State Grants. But critics say that means school technology initiatives will be competing for already-scarce resources from these other pools of funding.

Meanwhile, Bush faces a tall task in trying to persuade a Democratic Congress to adopt his spending measures.

Declared Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., chair of the House Education Committee: “The cuts in this budget for students with disabilities and for young children are reprehensible … For too long, the president has failed students, teachers, and parents, who are holding up their end of the bargain. It’s too bad the president isn’t holding up his.”

Winners and losers in Bush’s 2008 education budget

Here’s how specific education initiatives would fare under President Bush’s 2008 budget proposal. New sources of funding would include:

“$1.2 billion in additional funds for Title I, for a total of $13.9 billion. Bush wants to drive more federal Title I funding to high schools, so they have the resources to implement reforms.

“$500 million in first-time funding for Title I School Improvement Grants, a new program to support “strong and effective state leadership in helping to turn around low-performing schools and school districts.”

“$411.6 million for State Assessment Grants to support state assessment systems and to develop and implement two years of high school assessments that would be required under Bush’s plan to reauthorize Title I.

“$300 million to expand private-school choice and tutoring options. This would include $250 million for “Promise Scholarships,” or vouchers, for low-income students in poor-performing schools to transfer to private schools or receive intensive tutoring; and $50 million in “Opportunity Scholarships” for competitive grants to cities, nonprofit organizations, and others to carry out innovative voucher programs.

“$365 million in additional funding for Bush’s American Competitiveness Initiative, which aims to strengthen math and science education. This would include $125 million for the Math Now for Elementary School Students program, modeled after Reading First; $125 million for a new Math Now for Middle School Students program, based on the principles of the Striving Readers program, to support research-based math interventions in middle schools; $90 million in additional Advanced Placement funds to encourage more students, especially in high-poverty schools, to take AP classes in math, science, and foreign languages; and $25 million for an Adjunct Teacher Corps to create opportunities for qualified professionals outside K-12 education to teach high school math and science.

“$68.4 million in additional funds for Striving Readers to implement research-based interventions to improve the skills of teens who are reading below grade level. Among the 44 education programs slated for elimination under Bush’s 2008 budget plan are these: Enhancing Education Through Technology ($273.1 million); Even Start ($111.6 million); Tech-Prep Education State Grants ($104.8 million); Smaller Learning Communities ($90.4 million); Physical Education ($72.7 million); Teacher Quality Enhancement ($59.9 million); Arts in Education ($35.3 million); Elementary and Secondary School Counseling ($34.7 million); Star Schools ($14.9 million); School Leadership ($14.7 million); Ready to Teach ($10.9 million); Comprehensive School Reform ($10.1 million); Gifted and Talented Education ($9.6 million); and Demonstration Projects for Students with Disabilities ($6.9 million).