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Groups Decry Technology Cuts in Federal Education Budget

Killing the only federal program that specifically provides funding for education technology will undermine reform and innovation efforts in America's schools. That's according to four major education advocacy groups that issued a joint statement Tuesday denouncing proposed cuts to the Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) program.

Federal Funding for Ed Tech
EETT (Title II Part D of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, or ESEA) is the sole source of dedicated federal funding 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. And, like the Bush administration, the Obama administration has proposed zero-funding or eliminating EETT as well--twice so far for President Obama, in 2011 and now in 2012. (For its part, the Obama administration has argued that technology is implicit within the larger education programs that are receiving funding, though there is no language within the administration's budget proposal itself specifying funding for technology.)

Up to the present, Congress has never allowed EETT to be eliminated entirely. There's always been some amount of funding specifically for ed tech every year since the No Child Left Behind Act was signed into law in a decade ago, creating he EETT program. (NCLB had been a bipartisan program proposed by President George W. Bush and championed in Congress by Sen. Edward Kennedy.)

'On the Verge' of Losing EETT
But with the 2012 budget, Congress itself looks, for the first time, to be on the verge of eliminating EETT.

That's not sitting well with education technology advocates.

Four of the major ed tech groups--the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA), the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), and the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA)--issued a statement today saying that eliminating EETT will have a crippling effect on reform efforts.

"We are deeply disappointed that despite many members' understanding of the vital role technology plays in K-12 education in their states and districts, Congress is on the verge of eliminating funding for this critical program," the statement read. "Elimination of the program also is the surest way to devalue the billions of dollars invested over the last two years on improving broadband access to K-12 schools and directly undercuts ongoing state and federal efforts to deploy education data systems, implement new college and career-ready standards and assessments, and address the well-documented STEM crisis."

The groups also pointed to the irony of President Obama's visit today to TechBoston Academy, a public secondary school focused on a college prep curriculum fueled by technology. (The academy was founded with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2002.) The President and Arne Duncan, secretary of education, are visiting the school to "celebrate the achievements of TBA’s students and faculty in offering a technology-rich, college preparatory curriculum, and maximizing student engagement," as the school itself described the visit.

"Today, as President Obama speaks at TechBoston Academy to tout the need for more technology-related innovation in education, there is an effort under way to defund the EETT program," the ed tech groups argued. They emphasized: "EETT is the only existing authorized education program designed to leverage innovation and technology to get our economy back on track and adequately prepare all of the nation's children for the competitive 21st century global economy."

About the Author

David Nagel is the former editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal, STEAM Universe, and Spaces4Learning. A 30-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art, marketing, media, and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/davidrnagel/ .