Don Knezek, ISTE’s CEO, took time out from the NECC conference this morning to chat with reporters about the state of policy and practice related to education technology. ISTE and other ed-tech organizations, including CoSN and SIIA, have sounded off in recent weeks about the drastic cuts to the federal education technology program, EETT, that are proposed in President Obama’s budget for the next fiscal year.
Knezek told us this morning that ed-tech advocates are working with a number of people in Congress to put some of the EETT money back into the budget. That funding is crucial to continuing the progress toward using technology effectively to improve teaching and learning, Knezek said.
“I do believe that we’ve got the technology pieces and we know enough now to effectively integrate them” into the classroom, he said. “We’re at a point now where it’s well within our reach if we have the will and the discipline to do it.”
“The battle on the EETT dollars is not over by any stretch of the imagination,” he said.
Obama’s budget proposal would slash funding from $269 million to just $100 million. In the stimulus package, the program received $650 million in additional funding. The program had been slated for elimination by the Bush administration, and its funding was progressively cut over the last eight years.
Federal funding cuts would come on top of severe state and district budget problems, as well as the continued economic crisis. All have had a dramatic impact on educators who are struggling to equip their classrooms with technology, or even just maintain what they already have.
The dismal funding picture, however, has not deterred many ed-tech enthusiasts, including teachers and administrators who paid some or all of the costs of attending NECC this year.
Knezek said that they had hoped to boost attendance this year by capitalizing on the excitement over some cool new tools on the market, the new stimulus money for education technology, and the conference location in Washington. ISTE officials, however, don’t expect to get that bump, but the registrations are holding pretty close to the 12,000 people who attended last year.
“People see this as a strong renewal event” after the school year is over, Knezek said. “There’s an energy at this conference that really fires them up.”
To hear more from Knezek about ed-tech funding listen to our audio interview on this topic.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.