Washington--The House of Representatives last week passed an amendment that was created largely to hamper the National Education Association’s new project in computer-software evaluation.
The amendment is designed primarily to bar school districts from using federal education funds to purchase computer software through a new catalogue offered by the nea’s nonprofit education foundation, the National Foundation for the Improvement of Education.
The amendment, which passed by a vote of 205 to 173, is attached to the Vocational Education Act. That act, which came up for renewal this year, passed the House last week. The amendment had earlier been defeated in the House Education and Labor Committee.
The amendment, sponsored by Representative Marge Roukema, Republican of New Jersey, prohibits the spending of federal education money for equipment sold by an organization that “represents the interests of the purchasers or its employees,” according to a spokesman for Representative Roukema.
The practical effect, he said, is to block the use of federal education funds for purchases through the nea catalogue.
Representative Roukema and other critics of the computer project contend that the nea has placed itself in an unethical position by both endorsing and selling education software. The catalogue, released last month, did not explain that the nea’s foundation would eventually receive a share of profits from sales of items recommended in it.
The nea rejects the suggestion that it will profit from the project. “It is inaccurate to say that the nea is profiting from this,” said the foundation’s executive director, Jack H. Kleinmann.
“The nea receives no fees, no royalties, no commission,” he said. ''Any profits the foundation makes--which will not come until 1985 at the earliest--will be channeled back into the foundation.”
The education foundation was created to carry on a variety of educational projects after the nea lost its nonprofit status in 1969. Its directors are appointed by the nea, and a minimum of five members of the foundation board must be repre-sentatives of the nea
The new project, called the Educational Computer Service, is a joint effort of the foundation and a Maryland computer firm, Cordatum Inc. It employs teachers and technical experts to evaluate course materials for possible inclusion in a catalogue of “approved” software.
The first catalogue, published last month, endorses 115 software programs and offers them for sale. Most purchasers so far have been teachers, curriculum directors, and school districts, according to Mr. Kleinmann.
The project will receive a percentage of the amount subscribers pay for programs. The foundation and Cordatum Inc. will split any future profits evenly.
The catalogue, called “The Yellow Book of Computer Products for Education,” costs $20.
Manufacturers of some 200 educational programs, hoping to be included, paid evaluation fees ranging from $100 to $1,000 (depending on the software’s running time), Mr. Kleinmann said. He said the charges cover the cost of the teachers and technical personel who perform the evaluations.--ah
A version of this article appeared in the March 14, 1984 edition of Education Week as House Bill Seen as Hampering N.E.A. Computer Project