Congress saves ed-tech funding

Negotiations over the federal government’s 2007 education budget appear to have drawn to a close: On Jan. 30, Democratic leaders of the U.S. House and Senate appropriations committees unveiled a plan that would boost federal spending on public education by more than $1 billion for the remainder of the fiscal year, though funding for educational technology and many other programs would remain stagnant.

The bill includes increases for students with disabilities, underprivileged schools, and early childhood education. But the majority of education initiatives–including the Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) block-grant program, the primary source of federal funding for school technology–would be “level-funded” under the deal, meaning they would get the same funding as in 2006. Last year, EETT received $273 million, down from $496 million in 2005. President Bush has asked Congress to eliminate the program entirely in each of the last four budget cycles–including his 2008 budget proposal.

As news of the budget deal spread throughout the nation’s capital, education advocates who spoke with eSchool News said they hoped the agreement would enable lawmakers to focus their attention on Bush’s 2008 budget request. The federal government has been running on a series of continuing resolutions since the 2007 fiscal year began in October. “Failure to fund the Enhancing Education Through Technology program at all in 2007 would have been devastating,” said Don Knezek, chief executive officer of the International Society for Technology in Education. “This sends a powerful message of the value this new Congress places on education.”

Still, ed-tech advocates say, the true test is yet to come. “Level funding for 2007 is good news,” said Keith Krueger, chief executive officer of the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN). “But the more important fight is for FY 2008 … where the new Congress has an opportunity to revisit the issue of investment in our nation’s future through educational technology.” (Continue reading)

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