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A Logic Deficit

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It’s hard to make sense out of the president’sproposal to eliminate a key technology program.

I DON’T GET IT, and all of us in educational technology should be flat sick over it. No, I’m not referring to President Bush’s entire 2006 education budget—I could be, but I’m not. Nor am I referring to the lack of logic in a budget that:

  • exterminates 42 programs altogether.
  • calls for more funding for Advanced Placement courses while ending the Javits Gifted and Talented program.
  • proposes $31 million in initiatives to encourage foreign language study and teaching while abolishing the Star Schools program, historically a primary mechanism in the delivery of foreign language instruction.

No, I am speaking strictly about the president’s proposed elimination of the Enhancing Education Through Technology program, also known as EETT. What I do not get is the rationale behind cutting the program. According to ExpectMore.gov (www.whitehouse.gov/omb/expectmore/rating.html), the official reason is that the program is “Not Performing, Results Not Demonstrated,” which “indicates that a program has not been able to develop acceptable performance goals or collect data to determine whether it is performing.”

ExpectMore.gov says that EETT is expected to have data in 2006, and final reports of two major evaluations will be available in 2007. These are significant evaluation studies, advocated by John Bailey, Bush’s former director of the Office of Educational Technology. Bailey described the $56 million effort in an article published in the May 2004 edition of T.H.E. Journal.

So now the president wants to cut the entire program just when we are on the verge of finding out the results of $56 million of federally sponsored research. That is not only foolish, it is a waste of money. I have seen the positive preliminary results from some of the research projects. The program is working. If I can find the research and read it, why can’t the administration? And this certainly isn’t the only research that confirms the benefits of integrating technology into education.

Here’s another thing I don’t get. The president is proposing $380 million for an American Competitiveness Initiative, to fund programs designed to enhance math and science education for elementary and secondary school students. This idea looks like it was lifted from the National Academies report “Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future” (www.nationalacademies.org). Yet the money proposed for the initiative falls woefully short of what the National Academies say is necessary. Plus, the National Academies’ programs frequently cite STEM—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The president’s plan leaves out a linchpin—technology.

So how do we overcome this lack of logic in the president’s budget? By doing what we did last year, and more. Last year, after Bush proposed eliminating EETT, technology organizations rallied, lobbied members of Congress, and were able to convince them to include $272 million for EETT in the 2006 budget. A reading of press releases from major educational and technology groups indicates that these folks are gearing up to do battle again. But they cannot do it without you, the educators. Members of Congress need to hear your stories from you. Don’t let them forget that it’s an election year and you vote. Let’s restore some good sense and 21stcentury thinking to at least one part of the education budget.

Geoffrey H. Fletcher is the editor at large of this publication.

This article originally appeared in the 03/01/2006 issue of THE Journal.

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