Policy | News

Technology Now a Competitive Priority for ED Grants

In response to a number of public comments protesting the omission of technology as a priority in the funding of competitive grants in FY 2011, the United States Department of Education added the use of technology to its notice of final supplemental priorities for discretionary grant programs, which it released Dec. 15.

The list of priorities, which will become effective Jan. 14, 2011, is important to education entities seeking discretionary federal money, as it helps to determine the criteria for projects that will be funded by the various competitive grant programs established by the Department of Education, including School Improvement Grants and Race to the Top awards.

The department issued a notice of 13 proposed priorities in August, and educational technology advocates, including the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA), submitted public comments that objected to the omission of technology as its own competitive priority, as well as the lack of integration of technology into other competitive priorities.

"Based on numerous public statements and documents disseminated both by the White House and the Department, SETDA had every expectation that technology would be included not only as an independent cross-cutting priority for future discretionary grant programs, but also incorporated into all other priorities, as appropriate," wrote SETDA executive director Doug Levin in a Sept. 7 letter to Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

SETDA, as well as other commenters, urged the department to list technology as its own competitive priority, as well as integrate the use of technology into other priorities such as "Improving Early Learning Outcomes" and "Improving Achievement and High School Graduation Rates of Rural and High-Need Students."

In issuing the final competitive priorities, the Department of Education acknowledged the "number of comments" it received about the lack of a technology priority. It also noted that public comments "suggested that we include language focused on education technology in the individual priorities."

The department ultimately agreed with commenters "that technology can play a vital role" in many areas of school improvement, noting its past recognition of the importance of technology in other ED documents, including its blueprint for the reauthorization of ESEA and its FY 2011 budget request.

It rejected, however, the idea of revising the other competitive priorities, opting instead to "establish a new priority focused solely on educational technology," adding that "we believe this priority will be broad enough for many of our programs to use within the parameters of their authorizing program statute."

Levin said that he is "pleased that, based in large part on SETDA's comments, this oversight of technology in the competitive priorities has been corrected." He noted, however, that his organization had been hopeful that other priorities would be "strengthened" to include the use of technology to achieve education improvement goals. "Going forward, if we are serious about seeing real gains in effectiveness and productivity," he added, "it is critically important that technology be well integrated throughout all major programs and priorities."

About the Author

Therese Mageau is the former editorial director of THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at therese@educationworksconsulting.com.

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