The final $787 billion stimulus bill that President Obama is expected to sign today contains $105.9 billion for education, including $650 million for the federal Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) program.
Although encouraged by an increase of more than double its current funding level, ed-tech advocates said they were disappointed EETT did not receive the $1 billion it was slated to receive in earlier drafts of the package. In past years, EETT has been repeatedly targeted for cuts.
"The funding provides a much-needed down payment toward meeting President Obama’s vision that all students receive the benefits of 21st-century learning environments, but the final level of investment falls short of funding in the House and Senate bills, and far short of what is needed by our students to compete in today’s digital age," read a statement from the International Society for Technology in Education and the Consortium for School Networking.
The two groups noted President Obama’s commitment to education, and urged Congress to increase ed-tech funding levels in FY09 and FY10. An estimated $9.9 billion total investment is needed to ensure that all Title I schools have effective, technology-rich classrooms, according to the groups.
The EETT funding in the stimulus bill "will provide critical support to states, districts, and schools to respond to warnings from the business community that students are not being prepared for the intellectual demands of the modern workplace," said Mary Ann Wolf, executive director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association.
"Schools are ready, willing, and able to make technology a critical component of education, so that education focuses on what students need to learn and how students need to learn to compete in the modern workforce… For a wireless nation that relies on technology for ordinary tasks and extraordinary achievements, it is time for technology to occupy a prominent place in education operations."
The stimulus package will help essential funding find its way to schools in the midst of budget deficits and "will help cash-strapped school districts avoid program cuts, prevent teacher layoffs, invest in school modernization and increase funding for Title I, special education, and other important programs," said a statement from the American Association of School Administrators.
Acknowledging that the bill does lack some key funding areas that educators enthusiastically supported, the administrators’ group said that while the bill "does not include the level of funding for school construction included in the House version of the bill," it is still a solid step in the right direction.
"This is a solid recognition by Congress that the road to economic recovery runs through our classrooms," National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel said in a Feb. 13 statement. eSchool News- Education snags $105.9B in stimulus package