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ISTE: Without EETT, Progress 'Cannot Be Achieved'

The International Society for Technology in Education, or ISTE, today pushed the importance of preventing the proposed defunding of the Enhancing Education Through Technology Program, or EETT, the federal government's main ed-tech program, as part of its trio of recommendations to policymakers for 2011. But recent history suggests it's not likely policymakers will heed ISTE's call.

The eight-paragraph document from ISTE says dedicating ed-tech-specific funding, identifying technology as the basis for all school improvement, and continuing the push for universal broadband Internet access are the three big themes for legislators and others to remember this calendar year. Within the funding theme, the document said the EETT program, which received $100 million in the fiscal year 2010 budget and $650 million in federal stimulus funds, has a proven record of supporting the type school innovation necessary to reform struggling schools in a struggling technology.

"While ed tech is indeed central to a 21st century (sic) education, real economic progress through technology cannot be achieved if federal funding for technology is diffused among all major education programs and a proven program like EETT is defunded in that process," the ISTE document reads. "Like reading, math, and other core components of the instructional process, ed tech requires a dedicated funding stream and a long term (sic) commitment to yield results."

President Obama proposed defunding EETT in his fiscal 2011 budget, citing that ed-tech funding needed to be more comprehensively woven into all federal education spending. Fiscal 2011 began on Oct. 1, but Congress has passed temporary measures keeping federal spending for all programs, including those of the United States Department of Education, at fiscal 2010 levels until March 4 of this year.

Even in a more favorable political climate, it's perhaps unlikely ISTE's recommendation would get much credence. A year ago, ISTE called for EETT yearly spending to be boosted to at least $500 million as part of a group letter also signed by the Consortium for School Networking, or CoSN, the Federation of American Scientists, the Knowledge Alliance, the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future, and PBS. Instead, even with a majority in both chambers of Congress, the Obama administration proposed cutting the program. Now Republicans have control of the House of Representatives and have gained more seats in the Senate, and have pledged to reduce federal spending even if the administration were more receptive to ISTE's desires.

Elsewhere in the document, ISTE praises significant federal investments in technology in 2010 through Race to the Top, Investing in Innovation, and other programs, but says to maximize those efforts, ed-tech experts and policy experts must both remain committed to technology as an essential and central piece of school reform. And in supporting efforts to provide universal nationwide broadband Internet, it stressed high-speed Web access is essential both for teachers and students during class time, and for students at home after school hours, a stance the Federal Communications Commission also appeared to recognize in last year's National Broadband Plan.

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