Policy & Budget

EETT Eliminated in 2011 Obama Budget Proposal

Human space flight wasn't the only casualty of the 2011 federal budget proposal issued by the Obama administration Monday. Despite an overall $3.5 billion increase in education spending, the proposed $3.8 trillion FY 2011 budget zeroed out the only federal source of funding specifically dedicated to education technology, while consolidating 38 education programs into 11 and shifting a total of $1.85 billion into the Race to the Top program and the Investing in Innovation Fund.

The changes are part of an effort to reform K-12 education in the United States, according to President Obama, with an eye toward eliminating programs that, by the administration's reckoning, have not proved effective over the years, while combining others that seemed redundant or complementary. These reforms were emphasized in public remarks and throughout the sections of the budget proposal dealing with the U.S. Department of Education.

In a written introduction to the budget package to Congress, President Obama said, "Because an educated workforce is essential in a 21st Century global economy, we are undertaking a reform of elementary and secondary school funding by setting high standards, encouraging innovation, and rewarding success; making the successful Race to the Top fund permanent and opening it up to innovative school districts; investing in educating the next generation of scientists and engineers; and putting our Nation closer to meeting the goal of leading the world in new college graduates by 2020. Moreover, since in today's economy learning must last a lifetime, my Administration will reform the job-training system, streamlining it and focusing it on the high-growth sectors of the economy."

In addition to the ed tech budget cut and various other program eliminations and consolidations, the proposed budget called for increases in competitive funding for early learning programs and STEM education programs and hinted at changes to the way students are assessed under the most recent reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), known as No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).

Education Technology: EETT, Race to the Top, and the Investing in Innovation Fund
The 2011 Obama budget proposed eliminating the Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) provision in ESEA, slashing federal education technology from $100 million in the 2010 budget to $0 for 2011. (The 2010 budget's $100 million had been supplemented by an infusion of $650 million through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, or ARRA, so the cut in the proposed 2011 budget is far more significant than what is represented in a year-over-year comparison.)

EETT (part of Title II D of NCLB) is the program that has provided the sole source of federal funding under NCLB specifically supporting 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."

In past years, under the Bush administration, EETT had been the occasional target of proposed budget cuts but had always been "rescued" by Congress in budget deliberations, regardless of which party held a majority in Congress. This year, however, it isn't clear that this will happen--not because education technology has lost support in Congress necessarily but because technology funding in this budget proposal is being integrated into other programs.

The funds that, in previous budgets, had been allocated to EETT are being allocated in the new proposal to a variety of programs that all fall under the same subsection of the budget as EETT, a section called ""Effective Teaching and Learning for a Complete Education." All of the programs in this section that have been slated for funding are new in 2011:

  • Effective Teaching and Learning: Literacy ($450 million);
  • Effective Teaching and Learning: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics ($300 million); and
  • Effective Teaching and Learning for a Well-Rounded Education ($265 million).

It's worth noting here that Secretary Duncan and others within the Department of Education have expressed support for technology in education.

Geoffrey H. Fletcher, editorial director for THE Journal and our sister publication, Campus Technology, interviewed Duncan and Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation Jim Shelton last summer and said that both were firmly behind ed tech.

"I cannot wait to hear more details about the proposed budget," Fletcher said. "When I interviewed Secretary Duncan and Jim Shelton this past summer, both were absolutely clear that without technology we cannot possibly be successful in the reforms the administration has outlined. We need technology for data systems to gauge how well students are doing; we need technology to engage students in learning; and we need technology to deliver professional development equitably and inexpensively to teachers so they can improve. I also am anxious to see the National Educational Technology Plan when it rolls out in the middle of March. Why go to the expense and effort to develop a plan if technology is so unimportant that it receives no dedicated funding?"

The Race to the Top program, under the proposed budget, will receive $1.35 billion, while $500 million will go to the Investing in Innovation Fund. Race to the Top emphasizes performance-based incentives and data-driven decision making and is aimed at reforming the manner in which student achievement is assessed. The program debuted in 2009, with $4.35 billion in funding through ARRA. The Investing in Innovation Fund was also introduced in ARRA with an infusion of $650 (plus $100 million in the 2010 budget). It provides competitive grants designed to encourage programs that improve student achievement, student retention, student graduation rates, and teacher/administrator effectiveness. Both include support for technology within the context of their main purposes, though neither program dedicates funding specifically for technology.

"Race to the Top taught us that competition and incentives drive reform," said United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in a statement released to coincide with the budget proposal. "So even as we continue funding important formula programs like Title I and IDEA, we are adding money to competitive programs that are changing the landscape of our education system."

Changing Assessment, Reforming ESEA
The new budget also hinted at impending changes to the ways in which student achievement is assessed. The Obama administration has not yet detailed these changes; however, within today's budget was a note indicating that such changes will be proposed as part of a larger ESEA reform effort, changes that will shift the emphasis to college and career readiness.

According to the budget document focusing on education (PDF): "The Budget supports the Administration's new vision for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The reauthorized law would encourage States to adopt higher, clearer standards that set the expectation that every student will graduate from high school ready for college and a career. The new law would support dramatic improvements in the quality of assessments to measure complex skills and help teachers identify and respond to students' strengths and needs."

The note also indicated that some flexibility will be introduced into accountability measures, such as recognizing gains in student achievement: "The reauthorization would also recognize and reward schools for helping students make important gains, even if they are not yet at grade-level, and offer new flexibility for successful States and districts to pursue new solutions to help all students meet high standards."

At the same time, the document indicated, more funding will be dedicated to "turning around" schools that have not performed well historically in terms of student outcomes. "In support of these efforts, the Budget provides a $3 billion increase in funding for K-12 education programs authorized in the ESEA, including $900 million for School Turnaround Grants, and the Administration will request up to $1 billion in additional funding if Congress successfully completes a fundamental overhaul of the law. Together, these measures would represent the largest funding increase for ESEA programs ever requested."

Early Learning & STEM
The new budget also proposed funding for efforts to bolster education in science, technology, engineering, and math and to prepare children for entry into kindergarten.

According to the budget document, "Our Nation's eighth graders are scoring below their peers from many Asian and European countries, and we are neither adequately closing the achievement gaps in math and science nor providing adequate opportunities for many students from diverse backgrounds. The Budget reflects the Administration's investment in improving science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) outcomes and creating the next generation of scientists and engineers who can help drive economic growth in the coming decades."

The budget proposal included $300 million for improving STEM teaching and learning and dedicated $150 million of the Investing in Innovation Fund "to test, validate, and scale promising strategies to improve teaching and accelerate student learning in STEM subjects," according to the budget document. "The Department of Education will work with the National Science Foundation and other Federal agencies to identify the most effective interventions that can help States, schools, and teachers improve STEM outcomes."

Another $9.3 billion will be dedicated to early learning programs, which ED indicated would be rolled out over the next 10 years "to improve the quality of early learning programs and prepare students for success in kindergarten."

A complete copy of the Obama administration's proposed 2011 budget, as well as related documents, can be found here.