EdTech Info

Saw this update from COSN...anyone in Texas worried that the state tech allotment won't survive this legislative session?

Obama Administration Makes Ed Tech a Priority

Economic Recovery Package Contains Significant New Funding for EETT; FY09 Appropriations Remains on Hold

Following his election, President Obama spoke numerous times about the importance of investing in education technology both to stimulate the economy and to prepare America's students to compete in the 21st Century economy. Twelve days before his inauguration, then President-elect Obama declared: "To give our children the chance to live out their dreams in a world that's never been more competitive, we will equip tens of thousands of schools, community colleges, and public universities with 21st century classrooms, labs, and libraries. We'll provide new computers, new technology, and new training for teachers so that students in Chicago and Boston can compete with kids in Beijing for the high-tech, high-wage jobs of the future."

In late January, the House of Representatives began to deliver on the President's vision by approving, on a vote of 244 to 188, an $819 billion economic recovery package that would provide $1 billion in direct funding for education technology. In its own economic recovery measure, the Senate Appropriations Committee also included $1 billion for education technology. The Senate will seek to pass its version during the first week of February, with both bodies aiming to pass final legislation by Presidents' Day.

"This funding is a good first step to help to bring our classrooms into the 21st century and drive economic growth, but Congress needs to invest more to make a real difference," said Keith Krueger, CEO of CoSN. "We applaud President Obama's vision, and we need the resources to make it a reality."

Under the terms of the House and Senate versions, $1 billion in additional funding for education technology and that funding would be disseminated through the Enhancing Education through Technology (EETT) program. Currently, the House bill would allow the US Department of Education (USDoE) to release half of that sum on July 1, 2009, with that funding remaining available until September 30, 2010. The USDoE would release the remaining $500 million on July 1, 2010 and that funding would remain available until September 30, 2011. The Senate bill does not provide a timeline for the release of funds.

Other sections of both bills contained possible new sources of funding for education technology. The House bill would provide $14 billion in formula block grant funding to states for K12 School Modernization, Repair and Renovation, with allowable uses of funding including education technology infrastructure upgrades. Specifically, the bill would allow states to send money to school districts for "upgrading or installing educational technology infrastructure." It would also allow districts to expend these funds on the following activities: wiring; hardware and software purchases; connectivity linkages and resources; and microwave, fiber optics, cable and satellite transmission acquisitions. School districts receiving funds under this section would need to expend all dollars received within two years of this bill's enactment.

The Senate bill includes more funding for school modernization – $17 billion – than does the House version but that sum also includes the $1 billion for EETT. Additionally, the Senate's modernization piece bars schools from using funds to purchase classroom technology, including computers, monitors and printers.

While the House bill, as many had hoped, did not contain money only for school broadband upgrades, it did include $6 billion for broadband and wireless services in underserved areas and rural areas. K12 education may benefit from some of this funding. Under the bill, roughly half of the total broadband dollars ($2.85 billion) would flow through grants from the US Department of Agriculture's Rural Utility Service improve rural broadband penetration levels. The remainder of the money would flow through the US Department of Commerce's National Technology and Information Administration (NTIA). The House bill would provide: $350 million in broadband grants through a new State Broadband Data and Development Grants program; $1 billion through the Wireless Deployment Grants program for the deployment of wireless voice service or advanced wireless broadband; and $1.825 billion through the Broadband Deployment Grants for the deployment of basic broadband service or advanced broadband service. The bill would make education a factor in NTIA grant awards.

The specific Senate language on broadband was unavailable as of this writing, but the Appropriations Committee's press release indicated that the bill would expend $9 billion on broadband. That money would roll-out through NTIA's State Broadband program, with 50% directed to rural areas.

By far the largest chunks of education funding in this bill, though, would go to existing major education programs – Title I ($13 billion in both the House and Senate), IDEA ($13 billion in the House and $13.5 billion in the Senate) and Pell grants ($15.6 billion in the House and $13.9 billion). Separately, both bills would provide $79 billion in block grants to states for education. Under the House bill (the specific Senate language was unavailable as of this writing), the biggest piece of the block grant, $39 billion, would be distributed by formula to states and then passed through to districts, with this money expected to be used to make up shortfalls in state and local education budgets. The next largest piece – $25 billion – is intended for states to devote to education initiatives but could well go for state priorities that are not education-related. The bill reserves the final piece, $15 billion, for later award by the US Secretary of Education.

Once Congress completes work on the economic recovery package, it is expected to turn its attention to passing the long-overdue FY09 Omnibus Appropriations package, which contains FY09 final funding for the Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) program. While the final compromise language for this bill remains under wraps, EETT is likely to receive between $267 million and $272 million, the figures that the Senate and House Appropriations Committees, respectively, introduced but never passed.

ATTAIN Reintroduced on the House Side

Shortly after the 11th Congress opened, the four Congressional leaders who had introduced the Achievement Through Technology and Innovation (ATTAIN) Act in the previous Congress reintroduced that legislation in the new Congress. Representatives Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Hinojosa (D-TX), Biggert (R-IL) and Kind (D-WI) wasted no time in introducing the new bill, now called HR 558, which would revamp the existing Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) program by: increasing funding set-aside in the program's formula portion for professional development; targeting competitive grant funding to systemic reform programs that rely on technology; establishing $3,000 minimum formula grant allocations for districts; and requiring that all districts assess student technology literacy at least once by the eighth grade.

"Technology skills are more critical than ever if America's children are going to compete in today's world economy," said Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA). "Whether students are preparing for college or planning to go straight into the workforce, we must provide them with the high tech skills employers increasingly demand to meet the challenges of the 21st Century."

Co-sponsor Rep. Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX) added: "One of the most effective ways we can sharpen America's competitive edge is by investing in technology in the classroom. This bill will further the technological prowess of our nation's students and will ultimately increase our economic prosperity and capacity for innovation."

The original sponsors of ATTAIN in the Senate – Senators Bingaman (D-NM), Murray (D-WA) and Burr (R-NC) – are preparing to reintroduce ATTAIN in the coming days. Despite all of this activity, it remains unclear whether ATTAIN will move through Congress separately or only as part of a general overhaul of the existing No Child Left Behind Act.

Obama Education and Technology Team Begins to Take Shape...

On the same day that Barack Obama became President, the full Senate confirmed former Chicago Superintendent Arne Duncan as the new US Secretary of Education. During his previous tenure as the chief of Chicago's schools, Duncan won notoriety for his efforts to upgrade the district's technology infrastructure and his attention to classroom technology. His remarks before the Senate HELP Committee during his confirmation hearings showed his interest in technology and his belief that student exposure to technology is inextricably linked with future employment success: "In today's era of global economics, rapid technological change and extreme economic disparity, education is the most pressing issue facing America. Preparing young people for success in life is not just a moral obligation of society. It's an economic imperative. As President-elect Obama has said many times, "'The nations that out-teach us today will out-compete us tomorrow."

The President has not yet made another important selection, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, which has oversight of the E-Rate program. Rumors continue to circulate that venture capitalist Julius Genachowski will be the President's pick. Genachowski is a former aide to FCC Chairman Reed Hundt, the man who helped initiate the E-Rate program, and has had a great deal of experience with high-tech companies. A formal nomination could come at any time.

In the meantime, the President named current FCC Commissioner Michael Copps as Interim Chairman. Ex-FCC Chairman Kevin Martin resigned his position on January 20 and Commissioner Debra Tate was not reconfirmed in her position, leaving only Copps his fellow Democratic Commissioner, Jonathan Adelstein, and Republican Commissioner Robert McDowell as the only currently serving Commissioners on the five-member Commission.

...As Congressional Changes Abound

Both the House and Senate opened the 111th Congress with new chairs of their respective Commerce Committees. In the House, former Chair John Dingell (D-MI) failed to overcome a challenge by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and lost his position to him. Also in the House, Telecommunications and the Internet Subcommittee Chairman Ed Markey (D-MA), a long-time supporter of the E-Rate, opted to leave his Subcommittee Chairmanship to take over the Energy and Air Quality Subcommittee. That Subcommittee's Chairman, Rick Boucher (D-VA) will take over Markey's Chairmanship of the Telecommunications and the Internet Subcommittee.

The Senate saw major changes begin to take shape when Senate Appropriations Chairman Robert Byrd (D-WV) elected to relinquish his chairmanship just prior to the opening of the new Congress. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Dan Inouye (D-HI), next in line of seniority for the Appropriations Chair, then ascended to that position and left open his Commerce Committee Chairmanship. As a result, Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), a lead author of the E-Rate program, became Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee. The Republican Ranking Member also changed hands with the defeat of Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) in his reelection bid. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) will serve as the Committee's Ranking Member until at least next year, when she may resign her position to run for the Texas Governorship.

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Scott S. Floyd said…
After seeing comments made by TEA, it looks as if they are going to try to stockpile that money away and divide much smaller amount into competitive grants. Figures. We all have infrastructure issues, but somehow the average and up schools get left out again.

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