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Obama's Budget Would Eliminate EETT

Over the last several months I've reported on how a number of ed-tech advocacy organizations have decried the shrinking investment in the federal Enhancing Education Through Technology, or EETT, program. Indeed, funding dropped from more than $700 million in the early years of the No Child Left Behind Act to just $100 million in fiscal 2010, although $650 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act this past year softened the blow.

Now President Obama has proposed eliminating the EETT grants in his fiscal 2011 budget proposal. Actually, his budget would consolidate technology funding into several new initiatives under the umbrella of the "Effective Teaching and Learning for a Complete Education" program.

"Incorporating the use of technology is integrated into many ESEA programs," a footnote in the budget states. The budget describes the new program as "designed to improve instruction to support college- and career readiness standards, in part through the use of technology to deliver high-quality content."

Ed-tech groups like CoSN, ISTE, and SETDA have been promoting greater integration of technology throughout the curriculum, but I don't think this is what they had in mind. The new program seems to cover a lot of ground and could be interpreted as simply allowing or encouraging the use of technology to improve instruction, without actually mandating it.

There are three components of the Effective Teaching and Learning program, with $450 million for literacy, $300 million for STEM, and $265 million to support "a well-rounded education," meaning teaching across content areas. Technology is included in each, but without much specificity as to how and how much.

CoSN, ISTE, and SETDA issued this joint statement today expressing their concerns:

"We were very pleased to hear the Obama Administration's commitment to infusing technology across the range of its proposed programs and school reform initiatives announced this week. We fully concur that, as the President stated, 'Technology, when used creatively and effectively, can transform education and training.' We would like to see those sentiments translated into specific, tangible allocations that meaningfully incorporate technology throughout the Administration's new vision for ESEA and to the benefit of all students. In our view, a newly reauthorized ESEA must infuse technology across all program areas and be supported by targeted research, evaluation and investments that enhance state and local educational technology leadership and capacity, educator professional development, and technology-based innovation.

Last week, after the State of the Union Address, Don Knezek, ISTE's chief executive officer, told me he was encouraged to hear the president talk about the need for a greater investment in the nation's schools and for more innovation in general. But even then, Knezek was concerned that ed-tech would not be as much a part of that investment as he and other advocates were hoping for.

"Although I hear the innovation message, I hear the message about world-class standards for our schools and the need for kids to be globally competent, I don't sense real support for changing the learning experience," he said. "So far, we haven't seen an eloquent articulation of the expectation that education across all fronts would move into the digital age."

Of course, there's still a long way to go before a final budget is out. Stay tuned.

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