Educational technology advocates are hoping that Congress amends the fiscal 2010 budget to include funding for a grant program that focuses on improving new teachers’ abilities to use technology in the classroom.
Lawmakers created the Preparing Teachers for Digital Age Learners (PTDAL) program last year when they reauthorized the Higher Education Act. The program awards three-year grants to colleges of education to make sure they are equipping pre-service teachers with the skills they’ll need to integrate technology effectively into K-12 classrooms. Congress did not specify a dollar amount in creating the program, however. Instead, it authorized "such sums as necessary."
The Obama administration’s proposed FY10 budget did not provide any funding for PTDAL. As the budget progresses through Congress, members have the opportunity to propose amendments that include funding for the program. The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) is requesting that Congress provide $50 million to fund PTDAL.
The House Appropriations Subcommittee for Labor, Heath and Human Services, and Education "did its markup [of the budget] at the end of last week, and it didn’t include funding for the program," said Hilary Goldmann, director of government affairs for ISTE. "The Senate’s going to work on its [version of the] bill July 28."
Goldmann said the entire House Appropriations Committee is scheduled to vote on the budget bill July 17, moving the bill to the House floor.
"The program is important so that our cadre of new teachers know how to use modern digital tools in [their teaching] when they enter the classroom on day one, and they don’t need any kind of additional professional development," she said. "When new teachers are doing their field service or student service, they often don’t have any experience using technology … in the classroom. So this program would provide an opportunity for that."
She added: "Our new teachers often know how to use technology, but they often don’t know how to use it for teaching and learning."
The House Appropriations Subcommittee’s markup of the budget would provide $64.7 billion for the U.S. Department of Education "to help ensure that all Americans have the educational opportunity that is our most powerful tool in helping the poor and middle class climb up the economic ladder," said Rep. David R. Obey, D-Wis., subcommittee chair, in prepared remarks.
The subcommittee’s markup included base funding of $545 million for the School Improvement fund, which is $1 billion less than the Obama administration requested, and it kept the base funding for Title I grants to school districts at $14.5 billion. The administration proposed cutting Title I funding by $1.5 billion.
"As a result, the bill does not include several new and unauthorized initiatives that the administration proposed to finance by cutting Title I grants to 14,000 school districts," Obey said.
The PTDAL program supports pre-service teachers by funding innovative grants to institutions of higher education. The institutions will work with their college or department of education, their school of arts and sciences, at least one state or local education association, and a private or public entity that can contribute to technology-related reforms of teacher preparation programs. Individual grants would not exceed $2 million, and the law mandates a 25-percent matching requirement.
The program serves as a successor to the Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to Use Technology (PT3) program, a pre-service grant program created during the Clinton administration that received federal appropriations ranging from a high of $125 million in 2001 to a low of $62.1 million in 2003. PT3 provided more than 400 grants to schools of education during its five years of operation, according to ISTE.
PTDAL would "reinvigorate and continue that program with an increased focus on student service years. The last time PT3 got funded was in FY04," Goldmann said.