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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Stimulus Package to Quickly Impact Education Technology

The federal budget for tech in schools is expected to double.
By Alexandra R. Moses

Education technology gets a $650 million boost under the economic-stimulus plan, more than doubling the current federal budget for it and proving that President Obama's commitment to technology is more than just words.

As states deal with budget cuts in education, it's noteworthy that the stimulus package sets aside money specifically for education technology. States also will get about $40 billion to stem the anticipated budget cuts. But rather than simply hope some of that cash will go toward enhancing technology in schools, the separate pot of $650 million ensures that some money will.

The money goes to the U.S. Department of Education's Enhancing Education Through Technology (Ed-Tech) program, from which states get money to distribute to school districts. States can use this technology money to pay for things such as professional development to help teachers learn how technology can improve their lessons, software programs to enhance lesson plans, and computer labs.

"This money is coming at exactly the right time," says Sylvia Martinez, president of Generation Yes, which trains students to be tech problem solvers. "It should impact education relatively quickly."

Where the Money May Go

The Ed-Tech program already has a method in place for distributing money, funding purchases such as technology that enhances the curriculum and data systems that track student achievement. States distribute some of the Ed-Tech money to districts based on their percentage of low-income students.

The Department of Education on Wednesday announced it will, in the coming days, post specific guidelines and timetables for all the education funding in the stimulus package, but it plans to get half the money out to states within 40 days; the second half will follow in six months.

Advances in education technology are already happening; this extra money will help keep it moving. "People say you can't throw money at problems," Martinez says. "But actually, if you don't have the tools you need, you do need to buy them. You do need the funding."

Under the stimulus, the $650 million goes out over two years and is on top of the Ed-Tech program's regular budget. In 2008, that budget was $267 million.

The final figure was disappointing to some who believe that the $1 billion allocated in original versions of the stimulus bill was a more appropriate amount, and it's not clear why the money was reduced. In fact, the budget for the Ed-Tech program used to be much higher: In 2002, it was $700 million. Still, it's important to note that former president George W. Bush proposed cutting the program altogether in 2005 and 2007.

Hilary Goldmann, director of government affairs with the International Society for Technology in Education, called the money a "significant infusion." But, she added, "it's not going to be the kind of stimulus we had originally hoped it would be."

To really ensure that all schools -- low-income schools in particular -- are technology rich (properly wired, with tech-savvy administrators and teachers and the right software and hardware) would take about $9.9 billion, Goldmann says. Of course, no matter what the final figure is, there's always room for more. "Once you spread out that money around 50 states, it starts to feel like it's never enough," says Generation Yes's Sylvia Martinez.

Debate will rage on over what's enough funding and whether improved Internet connectivity should have more of a focus. But in the end, the money should help schools upgrade at least some of their technology rather quickly. Because this money is a rare case in the stimulus bill in which funding guidelines are already well established, districts should already have a sense of what to expect from their states.

While promoting the stimulus bill last month, President Obama said, "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."

With this additional money for technology, schools can get started.

Alexandra R. Moses is a freelance writer in the Washington, DC, area who specializes in education.

Comments (24)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

marcbell's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Parents are failing. As a 2nd grade public school teacher, I am faced with many students coming to school each day hungry, sleepy, angry because they overheard their parents fighting. Children are bringing the weight of the world on their shoulders because parents are failing their children. Parents are striving to be their children's friend, not mom or dad. Parents are not present in their children's lives; no homework help, families have forgotten where the dinner table even is, and many parents are non-existent. When I first started teaching twenty years ago, only a few students were from single parent homes; now most are. Then parents gathered their children together at dinner and talked about their child's day; now, parents are too busy with extra jobs, or are out and about being selfish with their own issues and neglecting the life they brought into this world. I believe we need a ten year stop on having kids. Get some parenting classes taught; tell parents: you don't become more involved... you don't get the tax credit.

Scott Coletti's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

In Ca. these EdTech dollars may be split in half between non-competitive dollars based on student free / reduced lunch rates, and competitive dollars. The new federal ATTAIN legislation may supplant EETT, requiring a larger investment in professional development then the EETT-Competitive requirement of 25 percent. More PD will be great for increasing academic performance, if, we make sure the results are teachers adopting sustainable tools within the larger and necessary context of improving 21st century practices. If these conditions are not met, we are funding pilot projects for knowledge we already own. After all, examining old school EdTech research, the National Academy of Sciences reports a positive effect about double that of class size reduction. Further, the National Mathematics Advisory Panel's spring 2008 report finds "Technology-based drill and practice activities can improve student performance in specific areas of mathematics." Like I said, old school EdTech, no electronic field trips, nor immersive collaborative field project simulations, nor making the invisible mind and universe visible.

(An aside, that speaks to the gifts of EdTech for delivering instructional practices more universally meeting specific learning needs of kids, is the panels message of how age based grouping is not providing an optimized math learning environment, because of how important our children's readiness to engage and learn is to performance. After a year of chewing on the panel's characterization of optimum math learning environments, it seems patently obvious to be applicable across learning needs.)

TMoore's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I think that the stimulus bill is great if it is going to truly benefit education. Here in VA, the governor took away funds VA Lottery funds. Thus creating larger school district deficits. Teachers are losing their jobs! I am an Instructional Technology Resource Teacher in a small rural county. My job is to train teachers on how to integrate technology into their lessons. I have enjoyed training teachers and working with students. Even techo-phobic teachers have been welcoming podcasting, blogging, online grade books, etc. into the classroom. The problem is that many ITRTs are in jeopardy of losing our jobs due to budget cuts. Furthermore, if ITRTs are cut who will train the teachers on how to use the projectors? The President wants to invest in education yet congressman and our governors (on the same party ticket) are voting to take money away from education. I don't get it!

Cyndi Bowman's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I'd like to see research on that. I don't know that having better technology toys will attract better teachers. My job as an Instructional Technology Support Teacher is possibly on the chopping block. In a recent discussion with an assistant superintendent in the district, I made the comment about being committed to the productive uses of technology vs. owning the toys of technology. Her response to me was that they didn't want to fund a position with federal monies that would last only a few years. I would like to see federal monies come, but without the strings. Right now, my district's tech coordinator can sit in his office and crow about every classroom having xyz technology -- and have no clue about how it is being used! My position helps move us from owning "toys" to using them to effectively impact the academic lives of our students.

stephen Lind's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

With the electronic age the teacher parent contact has increased and the amount of paperwork has been reduced no in amount but in the correcting, grading and presentation. I have seen the new wave of teachers be able to offer(not limited to age or gender)to their students far more information than ever before. There are few of us that remember the time it took to make a mimo,type up tests all had to be done seperately grade papers put in and average grades. When if you were inelliable for a particular after school activity you had two weeks until grades come out. Now we have grades done with the touch of a button(WOW) enough of the in the old days talk you get my gist.The more information available for student to access the more they can keep engaged.

John Aaby's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I would like to know where the money really needs to go and if we should spend any at all

John Aaby's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I agree 100% we need better quality teachers

John's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I think technology for schools is one of the best ways the stimulus could be used. Grow up a generation of young tech savvy innovators to drive the new economy. However, I'm concerned that money will just be used to prop up the incumbent system and bandage over its gaping holes. For people interested in how the eduction money is actually being allocated, this site has a good round up of education spending in the stimulus package.

Marlene's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am a first year teacher. Because Pell grants and state grants were available to me, I only spent close to 3000 for my four year degree. I attained my first teaching position making less than 35000 in a small rural school. I am required to become highly qualified which means I am back in school attaining my Masters Degree. This will run my approximately 30-40000.

What do I get? Well, the most important thing is knowing that I'm building and developing wonderful soon to be adults. But in my private life, the wage is barely livable, I will be paying back student loans until I am old and gray, and I still have to pay for licenses and supplies for my classroom (I spent approximately 2000 this year alone). You say I get summers off? Well, by the time I prepare for the next year, count in the hours I spend at home preparing for the next day or term, I'm working a salaried high demanding corporate type of job. If Obama wants good teachers, he needs to either pay them a bit better regardless of rural or inner-city *and* slowly forgive student loans as they "work" off their debt.

Just a thought folks. I wouldn't change my choice of careers regardless of the financial burden but it would be nice to not have to worry so much about making my bills and getting my class what it needs.

Maureen's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Sometimes, children learn in spite of us. Even with a low-performing teacher, if the students are provided the tools to learn, they will do it. Providing our low socio-economic students with the tools that they do not have at home will increase their odds of surviving and becoming successful. I work in several elementary schools, all of which are in low socio-economic areas. The students that are provided technology in a new building are showing tremendous growth. I would hesitate to say that it because of the quality of teachers -- certainly some of them are still "growing" -- but those kids are hooked on the technology and want to learn. Even if the teacher does not know something, they help each other. It is truly an amazing sight! Hopefully, all the schools in this area will be on the same playing field as far as technology goes, and perhaps the stimulus can help with that.

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