Educational technology leaders have expressed mixed reactions to the education spending bill for fiscal 2018 that was approved Thursday by the Senate Appropriations Committee.
The bill would provide an additional $50 million for the Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) grant program under Title IV, Part A, of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the section that supports STEM learning and technology in education.
That would bring funding up to $450 million — short of the House’s proposed $500 million for fiscal 2018 but certainly more than the Trump administration’s suggestion to scrap the program all together. Title IV, Part A, was authorized for 2015 at $1.6 billion, about four times the amount it is currently funded.
State edtech leaders and technology directors have reacted sharply to the fiscal 2018 proposal, still urging Congress to fully fund the grant program in order to enhance technology infrastructure across American public schools. The bill approved Thursday reflects the version initially approved Wednesday by the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education.
“On behalf of America’s school district technology leaders, we are deeply disappointed by the Senate Subcommittee’s failure to fully fund the Student Support and Academic Enrichment grant program,” said Keith Krueger, CEO of the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), in a statement. “The program … would help equip students and schools with the needed resources to support modern educational settings.”
“By modestly increasing funding for the program, the Subcommittee’s decision continues a disturbing trend,” Krueger added. “The House Appropriations Committee has agreed to just $500 million in program funding in FY 2018. This waning digital commitment among U.S. policymakers will affect learning experiences and outcomes in schools nationwide.”
Richard Culatta, CEO of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) and former director of the Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology, said falling short of the full $1.6 billion “dramatically constrains states” from supporting schools with edtech.
“We must support increased funding in education, period,” Culatta said in a statement.
The Senate spending bill also bucks the House’s and the Trump administration’s proposal to eliminate Title II, Part A, of ESSA, which funds teacher training. The Senate approved funding this program at $2.1 billion — the same funding level as fiscal year 2017.
Culatta applauded the Senate panel for this decision and said ISTE appreciates the restored funding.
“In order to prepare our students to thrive in a globally connected world, teachers must have the support they need. When teachers know how to use technology effectively, we see amazing results,” Culatta said. “Funding Title II, Part A, is a step in the right direction, but we must also support leadership in states and districts to turn the potential of technology into a reality of transformed learning for students.”