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Six Degrees of Speculation

In the nation's capital, everything is touched by gossip and guesswork. But there's one rumor that merits our attention.

Geoffrey H. Fletcher SPECULATION IS AS INDIGENOUS to Washington, DC, as the national monuments; part of the game is trying to understand which rumors, leaks, and parcels of inside information are worth heeding and which are not. I think one bit of speculation now circulating through the Beltway warrants following: Dedicated funding for technology may not be included in the next reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

The rationale for not having a separate funding source for technology is not new. In 1995 a state legislator asked me: "Why do we need a $30-astudent technology allotment that can be spent only on technology? You've said that technology should be integrated into all aspects of education; why not let each school district make its own decision about how to spend that $30 per student?" I have heard from a few technology insiders that in DC a similar rationale is floating around. Technology is just a tool and should be part of every program, they say. We don't need to send money to the states for a grant program for technology; we will just encourage each program-- Title I, special education, etc.-- to use technology as appropriate.

Judging from the mere $100 million it included in the budget for Title II-D of the No Child Left Behind Act, one might assume the Obama administration would agree with that thinking. And certainly a Congress controlled by Democrats is unlikely to raise the ante over what a Democratic administration proposes. A well-placed government relations person in the technology industry told me, "It will take a dramatic rethinking of technology in education, a totally different approach, to get more than $100 million from this Congress with the funding proposed by this administration."

A short time ago, I brought this very issue to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Jim Shelton, assistant deputy secretary for innovation and improvement. I asked them if the $100 million in Title II-D money indicated the administration's support for technology. Both said no, noting there was $650 million in technology funding in the stimulus bill already. They implied that support for technology in future congressional budgets will be connected in some way to the National Educational Technology Plan, currently being developed by a team at the behest of the Department of Education.

You can have your say in that plan by going here. It is not clear yet what shape the plan will take, what level of K-12 funding may be recommended, or how that funding may be distributed. It is, as we say, all speculation.

--- Geoffrey H. Fletcher, Editorial Director

This article originally appeared in the November-December 2009 issue of THE Journal.

About the Author

Geoffrey H. Fletcher is the deputy executive director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA).

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