4. The demise of federal ed-tech funding puts school technology programs at risk.

When the dust settled from lawmakers’ skirmish over this year’s federal budget, educational technology was one of the big losers, as Congress eliminated the Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) block-grant program.

President Obama originally wanted to eliminate EETT in his 2011 budget, but he also proposed a new initiative that 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 administration officials, the new initiative was supposed to “include a focus on integrating technology into instruction and using technology to drive improvements in teaching and learning” throughout all of these curricular areas. This new initiative didn’t make it into the final budget deal for 2011, however.

Eliminating EETT could have a devastating effect on school technology programs, ed-tech advocates fear.

Without EETT funding, the nation’s schools could fall even further behind competing nations, said former West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise, who is now president of the Alliance for Excellent Education. The program provided much-needed funds for teachers to access high-quality professional development opportunities.

“Education has trailed most other sectors in effectively applying new technologies to boost productivity and outcomes,” Wise said. “By pairing teachers and technology, the nation can create a powerful force multiplier that permits teachers to deliver high-quality content in new and innovative ways to all students, … including in difficult to staff subjects such as math, science, and foreign language.”

“As America’s public school systems and their educational leaders step up to meet the challenge of preparing students to be internationally competitive, federal education policy must recognize the important role that education technology plays in providing a world-class education,” said Dan Domenech, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators (AASA).

AASA has joined other education and ed-tech advocacy groups, such as the Consortium for School Networking, International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), and State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA), in calling on Congress to provide a funding stream dedicated to educational technology and to helping the U.S. education system remain globally competitive.

In March, SETDA released a report highlighting how states are using EETT funds. For instance, the Southeast Arkansas Education Service Cooperative used a $233,541 EETT grant to create a “Tech Camp for Kids,” which offered an innovative learning environment for students to use video production tools to produce real-world projects. Students exhibited significant gains in technology skills, all aligned with ISTE’s National Educational Technology Standards.

“Ensuring today’s students have access to learning technologies in the classroom is a key education and workforce development issue,” said Douglas Levin, SETDA’s executive director, who said EETT’s demise jeopardizes the future of programs like the Tech Camp for Kids. “By denying students access to these tools—and well-trained and supported teachers—we are asking schools to win the future with one hand tied behind their backs.”

See also:

FY11 budget details: a mixed bag for education

Ed-tech stakeholders protest budget cuts

Stakeholders decry EETT elimination

Report: Federal action needed to expand digital learning