President Barack Obama’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2011 calls for sweeping changes to programs within the U.S. Department of Education (ED), including a restructuring of federal education technology grants.
Under Obama’s budget plan, the Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) program—the largest single source of federal funding for school technology hardware, software, and professional development—would be consolidated along with several other grant programs into a new initiative called Effective Teaching and Learning for a Complete Education.
This new initiative would focus on improving teaching and learning within three areas: Literacy, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), and Well-Rounded Education (arts, foreign languages, civics and government, history, geography, economics, financial literacy, and other subjects).
According to ED officials, the new initiative would “include a focus on integrating technology into instruction and using technology to drive improvements in teaching and learning” throughout all three areas.
Most of the money would be awarded through competitive grants to state and local education agencies, but ED also would set aside money for national activities, such as grants to support research and technical assistance, grants to “strengthen the use of technology in the core academic subjects”; and a competitive grant program to encourage the development of “high-quality digital educational content for children.”
The three components of the Effective Teaching and Learning initiative would receive a combined $1.015 billion in FY11 funding under the president’s proposal, an increase of $95 million over what the programs that make up this new initiative received in FY10. But it’s unclear from the plan how much of this $1.015 billion would be spent on education technology in particular.
A reaction to Obama’s proposed budget, posted on the Software and Information Industry Association’s web site, said the plan “would dramatically remake the federal education landscape in the name of flexibility. … Among the changes would be the ‘consolidation’ of the [EETT] program, perhaps ending some 15-plus years of targeted investment in educational innovation and improvement through technology. … While SIIA has been [assured] of the goal to integrate technology throughout, those details to date are not available.”
The statement noted: “Flexibility in using federal funds to meet educational needs through technology is an important principle. … [But this] flexibility is most often taken advantage of by those with the vision, capacity, and existing success. The questions therefore are: What federal leadership teeth will be given to the integration policies to drive technology-based practices that would not otherwise happen? And, what will happen to those many communities and teachers without the vision, capacity, and resources, if targeted investment is no longer provided?”