After narrowly avoiding a government shutdown, Congress has approved legislation that would cut $38 billion from the Fy11 budget–including the complete elimination of the federal Enhancing Education Through Technology program, which educational technology advocates say will devastate state technology programs in schools.
President Obama is expected to sign the bill on April 15.
While programs such as Race to the Top and Investing In Innovation received funding, a host of ed-tech leaders and stakeholders say they are upset with the elimination of a dedicated educational technology funding program.
Without EETT funding, the nation’s schools could fall even further behind competing nations, said West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education.
The program provides much-needed funds for teachers to access high-quality professional development opportunities.
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“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, rural or urban, 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, the executive director of the American Association of School Administrators (AASA).
Domenech said AASA will call on the Obama administration and Congress to provide a funding stream dedicated to educational technology and to helping the U.S. education system remain globally competitive.
Fears of losing international education footing were echoed by most stakeholders.
“The chasm between the vision of out-educating and out-innovating our global [competition] and the reality of de-funding education technology is stark and deeply disturbing,” said Keith Krueger, CEO of the Consortium for School Networking.
Krueger said ed-tech advocates are urging Congress to rethink its “misguided short-term decision and start investing in building education leadership capacity with technology.”
In fact, losing critical EETT funding puts the U.S. “on a backward path,” said Don Knezek, CEO of the International Society for Technology in Education. Knezek acknowledged that federal funds must be spent wisely, but added that if the nation is serious in its attempt to compete with other top countries such as China and Finland, it must “invest in ed tech programs affecting the classroom today. EETT is central to 21st century learning, teaching and professional development.”
“Ensuring today’s students have access to learning technologies in the classroom is a key education and workforce development issue,” said Douglas Levin, executive director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association. “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.”
And while the FY11 budget legislation has passed, a new round of negotiations began on April 15 as the House of Representatives passed a Republican budget proposal that would curtail spending with deep cuts on programs such as food stamps and Medicaid. While the plan is nonbinding, it would cut $6 trillion from the budget over the next decade.
The GOP plan isn’t actual legislation. Instead, under the arcane congressional budget process, the measure sketches out a nonbinding blueprint each year for running the government. The resolution doesn’t require the president’s signature, but it does set the framework for changes to spending or tax policy in follow-up legislation.
The most immediate impact of the GOP plan would be to cut the $1 trillion-plus budget for appropriated programs next year by $30 billion, following on $38 billion in cuts just adopted. That would return domestic agency accounts below levels when George W. Bush left office.
The Democratic-controlled Senate has yet to produce its alternative plan.