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