Big-Picture Politics

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The proposed cut in EETT funding shouldn't obscure the more positive signs of the new administration's support for ed tech.

Geoffrey H. FletcherA GREAT SIGH OF DISAPPOINTMENT escaped from technology advocates on the day the Obama administration's proposed budget for 2010-2011 was announced. It showed a two-thirds cut in funds for the Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) program-- down to $100 million. The sigh was followed by a gasp: What does this mean for technology funding under Obama? Why do we have to constantly fight this battle?

The paranoid side of me senses a bad message being sent about ed tech. Maybe it will survive any further budget cuts, but when campaign rhetoric collides with reality, reality usually wins.

The optimist in me says let's all breathe deeply but calmly and keep our eye on the big picture. Consider the actions taken by the Department of Education (ED) thus far, which include allotting $650 million in stimulus money for EETT. That is not chump change, and if you couple that with the $269 million provided for EETT in the current budget, states will have $919 million to distribute in technology money this summer.

In addition, listening to the pleas of state education technology leaders, the ED moved the time for distribution of the stimulus dollars to the states up to July 1, allowing speedier implementation of the competitive grant process and thus getting money to the districts sooner. The department has also given states the flexibility to distribute 100 percent of the funds through a competitive program, instead of 50 percent competitive and 50 percent through the Title I formula. The message with both of these policies is, "We are listening to you and we want to support what you say you need"-- an attitude that bears no resemblance to that of the previous administration. In the big picture, the economic mess the country is now in and the stimulus spending meant to address it are causing a huge budget deficit. The administration has to show it is trying to cut something. Other programs in the education budget, such as Title I, took a hit, and some programs got pitched completely.

On balance, federal tech funding is looking good. Congress still has to act, and it is used to restoring technology funding from zero dollars, so there may be additional money coming.

Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) released a statement the day the new budget was announced citing his concern over the technology cuts, and other senators have weighed in. The ed tech community needs to do its part: Continue to let Washington know what is happening because of the funding. Let them know it is making a difference.

-Geoffrey H. Fletcher, Editorial Director

This article originally appeared in the 06/01/2009 issue of THE Journal.

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