Spend Wisely...or Else

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Thoughtful use of our share of the stimulus package is the only way to guarantee more ed tech funding in the future.

Geoffrey H. FletcherAS STEVIE WONDER SANG for the first time in 1970, and we heard countless times during Barack Obama's campaign for the presidency: Signed, sealed, delivered, I'm yours. I can imagine animated money bags representing the $650 million in ed tech funding provided for in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act singing the same tune to the technology directors in states and districts around the country to whom the cash is headed.

Still, $650 million is less than the $1 billion that was in both the initial House and Senate versions of the bill. And it is less than the $5 billion that President Obama's transition team was rumored to have proposed in the early stages of putting the legislation together. You may be "deeply disappointed" in the cuts, as the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) and the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) said they were in a joint statement. The two organizations called the money "far short of what is needed by our students to compete in today's digital world." Well, yes it is. The consensus among ed tech organizations is that just short of $10 billion is needed to create technology-rich Title I classrooms alone.

While the CoSN and ISTE response may be good political posturing for future funding, state and district technology coordinators need to get ready to distribute and spend this money quickly. Speed is good-- this is an economic stimulus package-- but wisdom is crucial. Thoughtful spending with a clear eye toward effective implementation that includes professional development is of the upmost importance for this money. I advise doing four things:

  • Reach out to people in other departments, such as Title I and special education, to see if they need help planning how to spend the enormous influx of money they are getting ($13 billion each).
  • Coordinate their spending with yours so the money will go much farther and be much more effective.
  • Collect data on how the money is being spent and what impact it is having on kids, teachers, the district, and the community.
  • Gather stories and observations from those affected by the money and let our leaders in Washington know how it is benefiting learning.

Our efforts are critical to demonstrating the effectiveness of infusing technology into education, as we look to a future that's signed, sealed, though not yet delivered.

-Geoffrey H. Fletcher, Editorial Director

This article originally appeared in the 03/01/2009 issue of THE Journal.

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