Obama highlights $90M ed-tech agency

In choosing TechBoston, the White House sought to showcase a school in a working-class neighborhood that had turned around its graduation rate, thanks to new flexibility for its leaders and plenty of help from private foundations.

Offering a recitation of challenges, however, Obama stressed the cost of carrying out an effective education agenda that corrects trends showing U.S. pupils falling behind their counterparts in other countries. In doing so, he set the parameters of the debate under way in Washington on how to continue to pay for government operations through the end of the fiscal year and avert a government shutdown.

“Fixing our schools will cost some money,” Obama said. “Recruiting and rewarding the best teachers costs money. Making it possible for families to send their kids to college costs money. Making sure that some of the state-of-the-art equipment all of you are working on … that costs money.”

TechBoston, a grades 6-12 pilot school within the Boston school district, opened in 2002 with money from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It has made big strides academically through combined efforts of government, businesses, philanthropists, and community groups.

Pointing to that success, Obama sought to cast public education as a joint effort by all sectors of society.

“Reforming education is the responsibility of every single American—every parent, every teacher, every business leader, every public official and, yes, every student,” he said.

Obama is making school improvements a major theme of 2011, linking educational excellence to jobs and private-sector competitiveness.

And while stakeholders expressed support for the ARPA-ED proposal, they also called for consistent education funding to keep U.S. competitiveness strong.

Ed-tech advocacy groups have expressed deep disappointment with proposals from the Obama administration and some lawmakers to defund the Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) program. The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), the International Society for Technology Education (ISTE), the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), and the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) said the proposals would eliminate the only federal program dedicated to making technology and training investments in K-12 education that benefit all students.

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