Policy | News

House Bill's 'New Priorities' Don't Include Ed Tech

The policy director for the education association ASCD has characterized the elimination of EETT as "a disappointment." SETDA's executive director said the justification behind it is "laughable."

A new reform bill is aiming for the "permanent" elimination of state education technology grants, along with 42 other "wasteful" national education programs.

In the first round of what's is expected to be a series of new bills focused on education reform and the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) introduced the Setting New Priorities in Education Spending Act (H.R. 1891) on the House floor Friday.

Hunter, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, explained that the bill is targeting the elimination of 43 programs characterized as "duplicative," "inefficient," or "a poor use of taxpayer funds."

"The [United States] Department of Education currently administers more than 80 programs tied to K through 12 classrooms," he said. "It's time to trim the fat. Today I will introduce legislation that will eliminate--not consolidate and not defund but eliminate--43 wasteful K through 12 education programs."

He said federal investments should focus instead on programs with a track record of putting student needs first.

In introducing the Setting New Priorities in Education Spending Act (H.R. 1891), Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) characterized some federal education spending as "duplicative," "inefficient," or "a poor use of taxpayer funds."

Elimination of EETT
Among the programs to be eliminated in the bill are Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT), Title II Part D of ESEA. EETT provides the sole dedicated source of federal funding for education technology. It was supported originally--and has been supported since--by both Democrats and Republicans in Congress and the White House. But it has also been the target of elimination by both Democrats and Republicans over the last decade, including Presidents Obama and G.W. Bush in various budget proposals to Congress. Its elimination has been opposed by education and education technology advocates and, more often than not, by a majority in Congress as well, where, despite White House opposition and shifts in power in Congress over EETT's history, it had been kept alive up until the current year, when it was defunded in the FY 2011 budget agreement.

According to a summary of the "Setting New Priorities" bill posted on the United States House of representatives site, "OMB’s 2005 PART evaluation determined the program failed to provide data to 'determine the program's impact on improving student achievement.'"

Response from Education Groups
Douglas A. Levin, executive director of the State Educational Directors Association (SETDA), told THE Journal that such a justification for eliminating EETT is "laughable."

"EETT is caught in the crosshairs of a fight about the size of the federal government and its role in public education," Levin said. "That a Bush era internal bureaucratic memo is the justification offered for slamming the door on 17 years of support for educational technology through the states is laughable. No one serious about education reform can dispute the huge shifts from print to digital underway in K-12 education. This is not a partisan issue--and the federal support has been and is instrumental in catalyzing this change and ensuring that all students benefit. It is the source of the most innovative ideas and work underway to improve schools."

SETDA is one of two education advocacy groups so far that have come out publicly against the bill. The other is ASCD, which earlier Monday characterized the elimination of EETT as "contradictory" to the needs of a 21st century education.

"The elimination of the ed tech funds is a disappointment," ASCD Policy Director David Griffith told THE Journal. "It is both shortsighted and contradictory to support increased student access to technologies, improved student proficiency with technologies, and teacher capacity to utilize technologies while eliminating the funding supporting these goals."

In a separate statement released to the public Monday, Griffith said, "ASCD agrees that ineffective and duplicative programs should be cut to free up crucial education funding dollars but, after carefully reviewing this bill, is concerned that the programs eliminated disproportionately affect a whole child approach to education."

Formerly known as the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, ASCD is an association focused on leadership and professional development activities in education and has recently championed efforts to make Common Core State Standards accessible to teachers and administrators.

"Any true definition of college, career, and citizenship readiness is not confined merely to proficiency in reading and math, but must also include all core academic subjects and the comprehensive knowledge and abilities required of students after high school graduation," Griffith continued. "Eliminating programs that support physical education, arts education, school counselors, school leadership, and the Teaching American History program indicates that these important activities that promote healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged students are no longer a federal priority. There is also an overarching rationale in the bill summary that many of these programs are a 'duplication of 21st Century Community Learning Centers program.' However, many of these programs are after-school programs, not during-school programs and are therefore not present in all sites. Even when they are available to all sites, they may not be available to all students.

"Though we would prefer a comprehensive ESEA bill that addresses these issues in an integrated fashion, we look forward to Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Rep. Hunter’s other reauthorization proposals and to working with them in achieving this goal."

SETDA's Levin echoed that sentiment, saying the group's focus is now "on the ESEA reauthorization discussions and in ensuring that technology is meaningfully infused across the bill and also that a dedicated program--focused on systemic redesign--is included. The future of educational technology will be shaped by online and blended learning, the rise of digital and open textbooks and OER, the shift to computer-based assessment, online communities of practice for educators, and ready access to powerful devices for every student and teacher."

He added: "Congress should be leading by looking to the future. Instead, in their haste to reign in the federal role in education, they risk over a decade of steady progress in educational technology--and our children's future hangs in the balance."

42 Other Programs Eliminated
Its elimination of EETT is part of the bill's larger stated purpose of eliminating programs that have not proved their efficacy or are unworthy of federal funding for other reasons. "Despite tripling overall per pupil funding since 1964, national academic performance has not improved," according to the bill's summary. "Math and reading scores have largely remained flat, graduation rates have stagnated, and researchers have found serious shortcomings in many federally funded education programs."

Other programs targeted for elimination in the bill and some of the stated rationales for eliminating them include:

  • Additional Assistance for LEAs Impacted by Federal Property Acquisition (duplicative);
  • Advanced Credentialings (duplicative);
  • Alaska Native Education Equity (duplicative);
  • Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and Whaling Partners "because it does not serve a federal purpose";
  • Arts in Education (duplicative and doesn't serve a federal role);
  • Bilingual and Emergency Immigrant Education Program;
  • Character Education (duplicative);
  • Close Up Fellowship Program "because it is awarded noncompetitively to a single entity" and "does not serve a federal role and should only be supported by private funds";
  • Combating Domestic Violence;
  • Community Technology Centers;
  • Comprehensive School Reform;
  • Early Childhood Educator Professional Development (duplicative);
  • Early Reading First;
  • Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Program (duplicative);
  • Even Start Family Literacy Program for failing to demonstrate a benefit to student outcomes;
  • Excellence in Economic Education for being an earmark to a nonprofit that administers the grant;
  • Foreign Language Assistance Program (too narrow);
  • Grants to Reduce Alcohol Abuse (duplicative);
  • Healthy, High-Performance Schools;
  • High School Graduation Initiative (Dropout Prevention) (duplicative);
  • Improve Mental Health of Children, Mental Health Integration in Schools (duplicative);
  • Improving Language Instruction Educational Programs;
  • Improving Literacy Through School Libraries (duplicative);
  • Javits Gifted and Talented for its demonstrated limited impact;
  • Mentoring Program (duplicative);
  • National Writing Project for redundancy;
  • Native Hawaiian Education (duplicative);
  • Parental Information and Resource Centers (duplicative);
  • Physical Education (duplicative and an inappropriate candidate for federal funding);
  • Reading is Fundamental (duplicative);
  • Ready to Learn Television for failing to demonstrate "substantial effects on student outcomes and parent/caregiver behaviors";
  • Ready to Teach Grant Program (duplicative);
  • Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities, State Grants (duplicative);
  • School Leadership (duplicative);
  • Smaller Learning Communities (duplicative);
  • Special Education Teacher Training, which was flagged as an earmark for a single university;
  • Star Schools;
  • Striving Readers;
  • Teacher Mobility;
  • Teaching American History (duplicative and failing to demonstrate results); and
  • Women's Educational Equity because "this program is no longer necessary."

At least four of the proposed eliminations were also consolidated or eliminated in the Obama administration's FY 2012 budget proposal--in addition to EETT.

The full text of the bill was not available online at press time. It will be accessible on the Library of Congress' Thomas system at this link. A summary provided by the House Education and Workforce Committee--one that includes a full list of proposed cuts and the rationale behind the cuts--can be accessed in PDF form here.

Editor's note: This article has been modified since its original publication to include comments from SETDA Executive Director Douglas Levin. [Last updated May 16, 2011 at 8:38 p.m.] --David Nagel