President-elect Barack Obama shed more light on his economic recovery plan in a Jan. 8 speech at Virginia’s George Mason University–and for education, the news is encouraging. Equipping classrooms with modern technology to better prepare students for the jobs of the future is a key component of Obama’s stimulus plan. And though the proposed dollar amount for this portion of the plan remains unclear, a leading educational technology advocacy group says the funding to support it could be disbursed through the federal Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) block-grant program.
In the interest of making America "strong and competitive in the 21st century," Obama laid out his goals of doubling the production of alternative energy over three years, updating most federal buildings to improve their energy efficiency, making medical records electronic, expanding broadband networks, and modernizing schools and universities. "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," Obama said. "To build an economy that can lead this future, we will begin to rebuild America. Yes, we’ll put people to work repairing crumbling roads, bridges, and schools by eliminating the backlog of well-planned, worthy, and needed infrastructure projects. But we’ll also do more to retrofit America for a global economy. "That means updating the way we get our electricity by starting to build a new smart grid that will save us money, protect our power sources from blackout or attack, and deliver clean, alternative forms of energy to every corner of our nation.
It means expanding broadband lines across America, so that a small business in a rural town can connect and compete with its counterparts anywhere in the world. And it means investing in the science, research, and technology that will lead to new medical breakthroughs, new discoveries, and entire new industries."
In his remarks, Obama did not say how much funding the stimulus package would include, but in an interview with CNBC on Jan. 7, the president-elect suggested that the total package could be between $800 billion and $1 trillion. (Tax cuts for the middle class are expected to account for some $300 billion of the total.)
Educational technology advocacy groups said they were pleased to hear the substance of Obama’s speech, and its reference to 21st-century classrooms in particular. "We are excited to see modernizing schools and supporting world-class, future-focused education taking a prominent and immediate role in the new administration’s economic agenda," said Don Knezek, chief executive officer of the International Society for Technology in Education. "Focusing on schools and student-centered learning to ensure a competitive workforce … shows a sophisticated understanding by top federal leadership that we have desperately missed in recent years." Top News – Obama urges action on stimulus plan