Edtech advocates denounce White House's 2019 budget proposal


A number of educational technology proponents have expressed their disappointment and disapproval of President Donald Trump’s budget proposal for fiscal 2019, released Monday.

Trump recommends $63.2 billion in funding for the U.S. Department of Education — 5.3 percent less than what was enacted in fiscal 2017 — and calls for 39 programs be eliminated or absorbed into others. (Comparison to fiscal 2018 numbers isn’t quite possible yet, because Congress hasn’t finished this year’s spending legislation yet.)

Notable among the proposed cuts — representing $400 million — is the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants, created as Title IV of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). SSAE grants can be used for a variety of purposes, including supporting effective technology use, student health and Advanced Placement courses. The White House also wants to scrap all $2 billion of Title II funding for teacher training.

The proposals have not gone over well with edtech advocates. The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) said it was “disappointed” by the budget, while the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) called it “misguided.”

“Now is not the time to walk away from SSAE grant investments,” said Keith Krueger, CEO of CoSN, in a statement Monday night. “They are critical in providing our students with the technology and training required to be prepared for the jobs of tomorrow.”

Richard Culatta, CEO of ISTE, reiterated that point in a statement Tuesday: “Scrapping Title IV of the Every Student Succeeds Act, the program authorized by Congress to prepare teachers to use technology effectively in schools, will stymie much of the progress we have already made and hamper our ability to remain competitive with other countries around the world.”

“We are disheartened that the current administration sees no value in programs that support professional development for educators,” added Culatta, a former director of the Education Department’s Office of Educational Technology. “Cutting the Title IIA grants, the programs that equip teachers with the skills they need, by $2 billion even while increasing the overall budget by nearly $500 billion, is a huge mistake.”

The Trump administration also recommends eliminating the Institute for Museum and Library Services — an independent federal agency that provides library and museum grants, policy development and research, often for technology programs — and funding for America’s libraries through the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA).

“The administration’s FY2019 budget is out of touch with the real needs of Americans and the priorities of leaders in Congress who represent them. The president miscalculates the value of more than 120,000 libraries across America, just as he did in his FY2018 budget proposal,” said Jim Neal, president of the American Library Association (ALA), in a statement.

Neal added that the new budget would take away resources from children, even though one of the key themes of the education budget is “providing better choices for more families to attend a high-quality school,” according to the U.S. Department of Education.

In his proposal, Trump supports the $200 million in annual STEM grant funding he promised in September
and reinforces Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ plans to modernize the Office of Federal Student Aid and the application process
it oversees.