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
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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 comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Clayton's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

In WA, at least in our district we have faced a number of years of high-stakes testing and have filtered out the teachers that don't do well. Teachers can only do so much. We have taken our kids a long way over the last few years, but we need allies at home as well. Parents need to take an active role in their child's education too.

dkool's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Great point, Cyndi. We need more educators like you who are willing to speak the truth about these tech coordinators who hide behind the tools.

Dan G's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

If you support these core initiatives:

-Effective, empowered teachers and school leaders;
-Student assessments that stress 21st century skills;
-Universal access to high-quality early education;
-A safe, healthy learning environment; and
-Affordable college for all students,

Then let President Obama know! Visit EDVOTERS.ORG and sign the petition today!

John Galt's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

your post has nothing to do with the topic.

Ken Flott's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Excellent point, having the tools and being proficient in using them are two different things. Training is very important to the success of anything in the classroom; whether it be curriculum or technology. Sometimes the two go hand in hand. For example, you may be teaching/using an effective curriculum but what about the students who don't have access to the text in a traditional manner. They need text to speech software; but if you don't have the training to integrate the curriculum with it, those kids still suffer.

Just my 2 cents.

Elizabeth Raycroft's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

In every stimulus, scholarship,and grant we are always excluded as we are not a low-income school. However we are not high income either, just a middle class kind of place. We initially got computers when the new building came, we have never been able to keep them up to date. we tried leasing computers so that the line item would be there in the budget, and we would continually be kept in the budget, but the first year the line item was cut in half, and this year the line item has gone. In a few years we will have no computers. When the budget has to be cut, they cut everything before the classroom teachers, which sort of makes sense, but how will we ever get ahead with technology.

zaida barr's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I have been teaching for quite a while, and have seen how teaching hae changed over the course of the year. Though it's sometimes quite overwelming to keep up. I am convinced that there's so much more to be done in order to capture the interest of the students. I work at a private school and I wish we could get some of that stimulus package money to upgrade our tecnology and train more teachers to get on board. DO WE CUALIFY AT ALL FOR ANY OF THIS MONEY?

Another thing, I am working on a PhD en Curriculun and Instruction. I am at the point where I have decide my research topic. In fact, I hace decided to do it in technology in the classroom, but, I am having trouble deciding of the specific problem. There has been a lot of research done, but I still believe there yet a lot to investigate in this area. ANY IDEAS? bye the way, I teach Biology and chemistry.

G-man's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Interactive White Board Technology: Bane or Boon?

No real, long-term, data-based research out on the web, at least that I have found, that has assessed whether it really enhances learning.

I'd be interested in any study done as our school starts the IWB march hopefully to a better tomorrow, and not over the ledge into the sea.

Belinda 's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I feel your angst and I share it too. Teaching is highly demanding and you have to be savvy on how you map out your growth and development in the field. Some school districts offer loan forgiveness find them and knock on their doors. Certainly the chnge is slow in coming in the meantime work at making youself effective highly qualified and eventually the balance will come in time.

derek clark's picture

I was wondering if you ever thought of changing the page layout of your website? Its very well written; I love what youve got to say. But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could connect with it better. Youve got an awful lot of text for only having one or 2 images. Maybe you could space it out better?

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