Federal technology funding for K12 school districts has been integrated into various other funding streams. According to Karen Cator, director of the Office of Educational Technology for the Education Department, the technology marketplace will subsequently be more efficient in addressing various school and student needs in the coming school year.
“We care about a vibrant marketplace so people are incentivized to build better products and not focus so much on money but on complex problems,” Cator says. “As prices come down and quality goes up for learning technologies, there is an expanded opportunity to leverage technology to meet [schools’, teachers’, and students’] needs.”
President Barack Obama’s proposed 2013 Education Department budget, which is $69.8 billion, allows technology funding to be integrated into other funds, just as technology is being integrated into the K12 curriculum. For example, Cator says, if the goal is to ensure that Title I students can read, a district has the discretion to use Title I money for buying software programs or other technology. Under Obama’s 2013 proposal, which is $1.7 billion more than the 2012 budget, Race to the Top funds will increase by $301 million over 2012 levels, for a total of $850 million. This includes funding for the RTTT’s Early Learning Challenge, which helps improve child care quality. In addition, $150 million is proposed for Investing in Innovation (i3) grants to help close achievement gaps, decrease dropout rates and improve teacher and school leader effectiveness.
When the funding stream first became integrated in the 2011 budget, education technology advocates spoke out. Dan Domenech, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) said, “AASA is deeply concerned with the elimination of the education technology funding within HR 1473. We call on the Administration and Congress to provide a funding stream dedicated to education technology, resources that support the widely-touted goal of an American education system that is globally competitive.”
The budget also includes funds for improving STEM education, including $150 million for Effective Teaching and Learning: STEM, which would replace the current Mathematics and Science Partnerships program, and $80 million for STEM teacher training, to support Obama’s goal to prepare 100,000 STEM teachers over the next decade. Congress is expected to approve or make changes to the proposal as early as Sept. 30 or as late as Dec. 31, and finalize the budget.