Follow the Money- Carefully
The stimulus package provides billions of dollars in new
funding. Schools and states need a plan to pursue it.
THE ECONOMIC STIMULUS PACKAGE introduced in Congress last month,
called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, has excellent news for
the ed tech sector: $1 billion in funding for Title II-D (Enhancing Education
Through Technology) of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) on top of the $275
million already available. Funds from other parts of the bill-- an added $14
billion to $16 billion for school modernization and repair; another $13 billion
apiece for Title I and the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act-- could be
used for technology purchases as well. Kudos to the Obama administration and
members of Congress for realizing the importance of technology in education.
Although a final bill won't be ready until mid-February, I'm offering
advice for school districts, states, and vendor partners to prepare for the
imminent rush for money.
School districts: To put it plainly, don't just buy stuff. Review your technology
plans and make sure that they are aligned with school and district goals,
and that any technology purchases will support student achievement.
States: Look closely at your most recent request for proposal (RFP) for
Title II-D funds, since it looks like technology money will continue to flow
through that portion of NCLB. State IT directors, get your RFPs and
processes ready to go.
Vendors: Look beyond this quarter and this year. Your livelihood
depends on producing goods and services that answer the current
demands of our market, but you also need to focus on giving
schools what they'll need years down the line. Consider a recent
editorial from New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman ("Cars,
Kabul, and Banks, Dec. 13, 2008). Friedman was writing about
the pending GM/Chrysler bailout, but his words ring true for the
education market: "Over the years, Detroit bosses kept
repeating: 'We have to make the cars people want.'
That's why they're in trouble. Their job is to make the
cars people don't know they want but will buy like
crazy when they see them. I would have been
happy with my Sony Walkman had Apple not
invented the iPod. Now I can't live without my
iPod. I didn't know I wanted it, but Apple did.
Same with my Toyota hybrid."
Our schools cannot afford to have tools that
are perfect for today but inadequate in a few
years. We need vendors to deliver products that
help educators see new possibilities. And all of us
need to understand that the decisions we make--
much like the stimulus package-- will have consequences
that will be with us for a long time.
-Geoffrey H. Fletcher, Editorial Director
This article originally appeared in the 02/01/2009 issue of THE Journal.