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By now, everyone knows about the new education bill and its testing requirements. Or do you?

In the first year of the E-rate, schools filed paper applications (some of which got sent back for want of a blue-ink signature) and then waited eight months for funds that looked like they would never come.

You could call it a technological wonder, or a slap to student rights. But the most accurate description might just be Big Mother.

Reading instruction and achievement have gotten almost as much attention this year from President Bush as Sept. 11 and the War on Terror. A major part of the new No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 is a 300 percent increase in federal funding for the Reading First initiative-from $300 million in fiscal year 2001 to $900-plus million in 2002 (and, if the president's budget request is granted, $1 billion in 2003).

First of all, CD-ROMs are so last century, and the World Wide Web is in. Second, a slow economy has left districts frugal or at least bracing for tight software budgets this coming year.

And lastly, big company mergers are making some administrators gnaw their nails, wondering if mergers will mean they'll have to spend more for software.

These are a few trends that school administrators and the Software and Information Industry Association saw this past school year.

When President Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, he committed millions of federal funds to support wise use of technology in our nation's K-12 schools. The money comes with a few strings, of course. But more districts than ever can expect to receive grant funds for technology under the flexibility provided by NCLB.

This is good news because schools continue to buy computers, peripherals and a variety of related hardware at robust rates.

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