Education technology fares well in federal spending bill


The federal spending legislation for the rest of fiscal 2018 includes much that the education community had hoped for, while ignoring many of the requested changes that the Trump administration sought.

The overall budget for the Department of Education increased to $70.9 billion, up by $2.6 billion over the previous level and the biggest appropriation ever for discretionary spending at the department (before adjusting for inflation). In particular, the bill — signed into law Friday by President Donald Trump — includes $1.1 billion for Title IV of the Every Student Succeeds Act, more than double its current budget of $400 million. The administration’s budget proposal had sought to eliminate Title IV, but Congress ignored that demand.

“I think people are pleased. [This education budget] could turn out to be one of the biggest increases in a long time,” said Michele McLaughlin, CEO of Knowledge Alliance, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that advocates for using research-based knowledge in K-12 public education policy and practice.

McLaughlin noted that the Education Innovation and Research grant program will receive $120 million this year, up from $100 million last year, but lower than the $180 million it once received annually and the $200 million the Trump administration had sought.

“We didn’t expect it to get back to” the higher level, she told EdScoop. This funding is in addition to the Title IV portion of the budget; $50 million is designated for STEM, while the $70 million balance can be used for other types of programs.

Included in Title IV is Title IV-A, the Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) grant program. Richard Culatta, CEO of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), said it’s important for training teachers to be skilled in using technology.

“ISTE led a two-year effort to help lawmakers understand the importance of both the SSAE grant program under Title IV-A and the Title II-A professional learning grant program,” Culatta said.

The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) also strongly supported the spending legislation, which funds federal programs through Sept. 30.

“Achieving ESSA’s goals will require smart investments in digital tools that support teaching and learning, and this additional funding will make a big difference for students everywhere,” CoSN CEO Keith Krueger said in a statement. “We appreciate that members of Congress recognize that SSAEG enables our nation’s school districts to decide how to best meet their students’ needs.”

McLaughlin said she believes part of the support for increasing Title IV funding was because of the high visibility of recent school shootings. The new budget takes $75 million from the existing Comprehensive School Safety Initiative, which focuses on research and implementation of evidence-based safety programs, and designates it to the STOP School Violence Act, which supports evidence-based programs, anonymous reporting systems, and violence prevention programs, and includes physical security upgrades such as metal detectors and lighting.

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