EETT ARRA Funds and Guidelines To Be Released in Mid-July
- By Geoffrey H. Fletcher
In a meeting that was part pep talk and part bureaucratic regulations, representatives from the United States Department of Education told members of the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) last Monday about the latest information regarding the Enhancing Education Through Technology funding. The funds from the $270 million EETT budget were sent to the states July 1. The $650 million from the EETT component of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and the guidelines for their use are anticipated to be released to the states by the Office of Management and Budget by July 15.
The date for the release of the ARRA EETT funds has moved around since ARRA was passed by Congress. Originally slated for release in the fall, the Department of Education moved the tentative release date to July in response to state technology directors' desire to get the money out to districts as soon as possible.
The pep talk came from Mike Smith, a senior counselor to the secretary of education. Smith oversees a number of programs in the department including the Office of School Support and Technology Programs, which houses the EETT program. He said, "When the Obama administration looks on education after eight years, they will see that technology had the biggest impact on education." Smith's message, like that of Secretary Duncan and Assistant Secretary for Innovation and Improvement Jim Shelton in prior meetings was clear: "Be innovative; think outside of the box." He encouraged state directors for technology to make their state grants 100 percent competitive instead of splitting the program 50 percent competitive and 50 percent Title I formula. He said, "A use of the competitive program and larger grants is more work, but it can have much more payoff. You just have to have the political will to make it happen."
Smith had other even more specific suggestions, such as: "Look for efficiency; look at cloud computing and collaboration among districts." He encouraged state directors to put winning proposals up on their Web sites and reminded them that even losers in the competition gain from the self-examination and visioning that goes into writing for a grant. Smith stressed the importance of doing a thorough job of evaluation of the grants that get implemented, "both formative and summative." Reporting those results will have an impact on future funding for technology.
Geoffrey H. Fletcher is the deputy executive director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA).