No Sign of Edtech In Department of Education’s Full Federal Budget Proposal

Policy & Government

No Sign of Edtech In Department of Education’s Full Federal Budget Proposal

By Sydney Johnson     May 23, 2017

No Sign of Edtech In Department of Education’s Full Federal Budget Proposal

On May 23, President Trump released his highly anticipated, full budget proposal, which includes massive cuts to the U.S. Department of Education (ED). The President is requesting to eliminate $9 billion (or a 13 percent decrease) in U.S. education funding overall, with major reductions to after-school and professional development programs. Big boosts, however were given to school choice initiatives.

The budget did not mention many details about the Office of Education Technology, or how the staggering cuts could affect edtech initiatives like the department’s #GoOpen campaign or its commitment to connect 99 percent of American students to broadband by 2018. The department also did not respond to questions around how the budget could affect the Office of Education Technology and its programs.

What is clear, however, is that the proposal does not include funding for Title IV-A, which covers a flexible block grant program called Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants. The grants are intended to fund programs around STEM education, college and career counseling, and supporting effective use of technology around blended learning and edtech devices. Title IV-A received $1.65 billion in fiscal year 2017.

“No money for Title IV, Part A would mean no dedicated investment for supporting teachers using technology to personalize learning, teach computer science or support high-quality online learning options,” Richard Culatta, CEO of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), said in a prepared statement.

Culatta, who was formerly the Director of the ED’s Office of Educational Technology, also urged Congress in his statement to fund Title IV-A and its authorized $1.6 billion. “The future of our children is at risk because of shortsighted and uninformed policy decisions,” he wrote.

The proposal also quietly suggests a possible restructuring of the Office of Education Technology through a chart that moves the office under the authority of the Deputy Secretary. Previously, the 2017 fiscal year request by the Obama Administration had housed the Office of Education Technology directly under the Secretary of Education. Founder of EdTech strategies Doug Levin, who pointed out the move via Twitter, tweeted it “definitely looks like a [reorganization] and demotion/ change in role to me.”

The budget also requests to cut Title II-A, a total of $2.3 billion, which provides grants to support training for mostly K-12 teachers and principals. Also on the chopping block are 21st Century Community Learning Program Centers, as the budget proposes cutting $1.2 billion to effectively kill the program that provides after-school learning opportunities for students who attend high-poverty and low-performing schools.

In higher education, the budget proposes to get rid of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, which removes federal direct loan balances for full-time working students who have paid 120 monthly payments. The move is projected to cut $143 billion over 10 years. According to the proposal: “All policies for student loans would apply to loans originated on or after July 1, 2018, with an exception for students who borrowed their first loans prior to July 1, 2018, and who are borrowing to complete their current course of study.”

“The budget proposal is a retreat from policies and programs that make community colleges more affordable for students and would also diminish the ability of our colleges to educate and train workers for the jobs of today and tomorrow,” California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz said.

Others have already cited concerns around education technology’s absence in the proposal, in addition to requested slashes to more than 30 ED programs (28 of which will be completely eliminated).

David DeSchryver, senior vice president at Whiteboard Advisors, called the decision to leave the Office of Education Technology from the budget “a missed opportunity to promote local and district innovation.”

“There is no explicit thinking in this budget about the role of technology and how that's changing our schools,” DeSchryver told EdSurge. “It leaves out one of the most interesting things that's happening in public education, which is the use of technology to accelerate learning.”

The proposed budget also shuffles money so that efforts that previously had their own dedicated funds are now covered by others. The department justified removal of Title II-A (professional development) and IX-A (“effective use of technology”) funds on the grounds that the efforts could be covered by Title I funding, which the President proposed increasing to $15.9 billion for 2018. That would mark a $1 billion dollar increase from 2017.

Other programs and offices that avoided massive proposed cuts include the Office of Civil Rights, which falls under the Department of Education, would receive $106.8 million, the same as the fiscal year 2017. The budget also includes $1.4 billion which will be allocated towards private and public school choice, and a $167 million increase in funds for the Charter Schools program.

“The President’s budget proposal is so misguided, unbalanced, and dangerous to our nation’s kids and their opportunity to succeed that it almost cannot be taken seriously,” James P. Steyer, Founder and CEO of Common Sense Media, said in a statement. “But this budget proposal is no joke.”

Not everyone in the education reform camp is equally concerned about the proposal. “The president’s budget is neither offensive nor unfair,” Jeanne Allen, founder and CEO of the Center for Education Reform, said in a prepared comment. “It contains some recognition that the federal government’s efforts should follow state and local efforts and not further federal programs that fail to advance or transform learning.”

Those less concerned about the steep cuts might also be convinced the budget won’t make it past Congress. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) called the proposal “dead on arrival.”

This piece has been updated with additional information about the Office of Education Technology.

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