Policy & Funding

Tech Ed Getting Short Shrift in President's Proposed Budget

As experts pore over the details of the proposed Fiscal Year 2017 budget just released by the White House, one education technology organization has already begun preparing for collateral damage related to the amount allocated to enrichment grants.

When Congress passed and President Obama signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESSA) into law in December, the act included a provision for "student support and academic enrichment grants," which were to be used to support technology usage by schools, as well as other activities.

The recent budget proposes $500 million for the new grants, an amount considered a pittance by ISTE, the International Society for Technology in Education.

Under the statute, the money would be allocated by the Department of Education to states using a formula that takes into account each state's share of Title I, Part A funds, those monies trickled down to local education agencies and schools with high numbers of children from low-income families. States would turn around and allocate "sub-grants" to the LEAs, which are supposed to prioritize activities that support schools they deem of the greatest need. According to ESSA, the school agencies that receive $30,000 or  more need to spend at least a fifth of their allocation on "well-rounded education activities," at least a fifth on activities for promoting "safe and healthy students," and "a portion of remaining funds" on other activities that promote the effective use of ed tech.

By the time the rest of those allocations are handed out, ISTE suggested in a prepared statement, there will be too little left to support the effective expansion of technology that American schools need. "This figure falls well short — indeed, it's less than one-third — of the Title IV authorization level Congress passed by an overwhelming majority and the President signed into law just two months ago," said ISTE CEO Brian Lewis. "It's particularly puzzling to ISTE, given the administration's otherwise powerful education technology legacy."

ISTE's concern is that the technology professional development those funds could have covered will be greatly reduced. "Title IV of ESSA is designed to encourage school districts to provide technology professional development to teachers, principals and administrators. But it will be of only limited effect with so little money allocated to it."

Less educator training, Lewis added, will "decrease the value of other crucial and much-needed investments," including E-rate-funded technology expansions and the president's recent commitment to universal student education coding and computer science.

Lewis vowed to "work hard" to persuade Congress to allocate "greater funding" for Title IV in the eventual appropriations bill. "Our children's futures, and, in fact, our collective future, are too valuable to skimp now."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.