The fate of additional funding that might save thousands of teachers’ jobs remains uncertain after a $10 billion education jobs bill failed to pass in Congress, leaving many schools in the lurch as districts determine how many teaching positions their recession-riddled budgets can support. But advocates of education technology are pleased that a Senate subcommittee has added $100 million in ed-tech funding to the Senate version of the 2011 education appropriations bill.
The U.S. House of Representatives approved a war spending bill on July 1 that included $10 billion for teachers’ jobs, which supporters said would help prevent thousands of layoffs across the nation, as well as $5 billion to cover a shortfall in requests for Pell Grant loans for low-income college students.
The measure had trouble passing in the U.S. Senate, however, and the $15 billion for education ultimately was dropped from the bill.
Democrats said they hope to introduce new bills to help save teachers’ jobs.
“At this point, there is no money for education or preserving teachers’ jobs” in the war spending bill, said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia.
Wise said lawmakers still could pass a separate bill to fund education jobs, but at this point the effort just doesn’t have the votes. “It’s tough on school districts because they have to make their decisions now based on how many teachers [to keep],” he added.
“To call this a tragedy is an understatement and merely the latest in a litany of legislative efforts that undermine our education system and throw another roadblock in our children’s future,” wrote Sen. Mike Honda, D-Calif., in an editorial that appeared in the San Jose Mercury News.
“Anyone with an ear to the ground on the education front knows we’re facing an emergency.”
While the future of education jobs is shaky, education technology advocates were encouraged by the inclusion of $100 million for ed-tech funds in the latest round of federal budget negotiations.
Hilary Goldmann, director of government affairs for the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), noted that on July 27, the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee did include $100 million for the Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) program in its version of the 2011 appropriations bill—the same amount that was included in the House subcommittee’s version of the bill.
President Obama’s 2011 budget proposal eliminated the EETT program, although officials noted that technology is funded in other established and new education programs, where it plays a central role in operations. ISTE and other ed-tech groups have argued that EETT is critical in ensuring that states and school systems are adopting 21st-century approaches to teaching and learning.
Goldmann noted that “it is highly unlikely that the education funding bill will be passed and signed into law” by the end of the federal fiscal year on Sept. 30, and she urged ed-tech stakeholders to “remain vigilant in … vocal support of EETT, as there is still a long process before [fiscal year 2011] funding is finalized.”