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Policy & Advocacy

Education Groups 'Extremely Concerned' over EETT Cut in Obama Budget

If adopted by Congress without alteration, President Obama's proposed fiscal year 2011 budget would pump an additional $3.5 billion into education. But it would also cut the sole source of dedicated federal funding for education technology, and that has three prominent ed tech advocacy groups worried.

The three groups--the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), and the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA)--issued a joint statement Wednesday calling for the return of EETT to the federal budget. The groups said that they agreed with some aspects of the budget but that education technology is simply too critical a program to eliminate.

The proposed 2011 budget would cut all funding to the Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) provision of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which had received $100 million in federal funding in the 2010 budget, plus $650 million via the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA). EETT is the program that has provided the sole source of federal funding specifically earmarked for education technologies. It's designed to support state, district, and school efforts to "integrate technology effectively into [the] classroom with the goal of improving student academic achievement."

"While there are elements of the President's proposed budget that are laudable, we remain extremely concerned that the Administration has elected to defund EETT in its FY11 Budget Proposal and urge the Administration and Congress to restore adequate funding for this critical program," the three groups said in a joint statement. "Congress and the President included EETT as a core provision of the current ESEA law in recognition of the importance of driving the next generation of innovations in teaching and learning, assessment and continuous improvement, and cost-efficiency in coordination with other federal, state and local school improvement strategies. We fear that years of investments through EETT and the E-Rate, coupled with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act investment, may be devalued or lost entirely without adequately funding EETT or a successor program."

The response followed the release of a document by the federal government supporting education technology in general but saying that funding for such technologies would be integrated into broader programs, rather than dedicated to technology itself. This, the groups indicated, is an admirable goal, but they said they think something more "tangible" is called for.

The joint statement continued: "We were very pleased to hear the Obama Administration's commitment to infusing technology across the range of its proposed programs and school reform initiatives announced this week. We fully concur that, as the President stated, 'technology, when used creatively and effectively, can transform education and training.' We would like to see those sentiments translated into specific, tangible allocations that meaningfully incorporate technology throughout the Administration's new vision for ESEA and to the benefit of all students. In our view, a newly reauthorized ESEA must infuse technology across all program areas and be supported by targeted research, evaluation and investments that enhance state and local educational technology leadership and capacity, educator professional development, and technology-based innovation."

Two of the groups, CoSN and ISTE, also released their own individual statements, using language that was at times a bit stronger at times.

"We have deep misgivings about the Administration's decision to 'consolidate' the Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) program in the FY 11 budget," said ISTE CEO Don Knezek in a statement released today. "This decision removes direct funding for education technology at a critical time. We do, however, commend the Obama Administration's stated commitment to infuse technology throughout PK-12 education and we look forward to working with the Administration and Congress to make this vision a reality."

He said that technology needs to be used as the "backbone of school improvement" and that it needs to be infused throughout teaching and learning, teacher professional development programs, and assessment and that EETT is one of the programs that makes such infusion possible.

"We must ensure technology expertise is infused throughout our schools and classrooms--particularly through programs like EETT--and that we are continuously upgrading educators' classroom technology skills as a pre-requisite of 'highly effective' teaching," he said. "We must boost student learning through real data and assessment efforts. And we must work together to leverage education technology as a gateway for college and career readiness so that our K-12 systems can help fulfill the President's pledge to make the United States tops in the world when it comes to college-completion rates. We cannot and must not deny policymakers and educators the resources they require to provide all students with the globally competitive education they so desperately need."

CoSN, meanwhile, focused on the ways in which the zero-funding of EETT could impact 21st century teaching and learning, saying that cuts in funding could impact students' readiness for college and careers and would be "devastating" to education as a whole.

""We are deeply concerned about the President's proposal to consolidate the Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) program, which would leave our nation with no dedicated federal education technology funding," the group said. "For our children to succeed in today's global economy and beyond, it is critical that they be equipped with the skills necessary to become lifelong learners and compete with their peers around the globe. For our educators to succeed, they need technology professional development to understand how to powerfully use technology for learning. Eliminating EETT--a program that is essential to making our students college and career ready and our teachers the best they can be--would be devastating at every level of our education system."

All of the groups said they looked forward to working with both the Obama administration and Congress during the budget process to help "usher in a new era of dramatic educational improvement, supported by smart, strategic and sustainable investments in educational technology."

A complete copy of ISTE's statement can be found here. A complete copy of CoSN's statement can be found here.

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