Legislation headed for debate on the U.S. Senate floor would create a new program to provide the nation’s schools with more money for technology and for training to make the most of it.
The program has a nickname, I-TECH, but it’s not yet known how much money will be dedicated for it – or if it will make it as written into whatever version of the legislation eventually becomes law.
The program is included in the bill that the Senate committee responsible for education approved on Thursday, April 16 as part of a larger effort to update the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, more commonly known as No Child Left Behind. This federal program has become associated with larger issues than education technology in recent years, such as improving student test scores and teacher accountability measures. The law also provides an important source of money for schools that serve children who are poor, and the strings attached to that funding help shape priorities for these schools. The law has not been updated since 2001, largely due to disagreements in Congress.
Policymakers say there appears to be sufficient support to pass an updated version of No Child Left Behind soon. As momentum increased in recent weeks, advocates for educational technology mobilized to put their mark on the bill by including a program for high-tech tools for the classroom. They found support in an amendment offered by Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat from Wisconsin, and Orrin Hatch, a Republican from Utah.
Half the as-yet-undetermined budget for the proposed I-TECH program would be set aside for professional development for educators.
“In such a hyper-partisan environment, we are thrilled leaders from both sides of the aisle came together to do this – and with very little notice,” said Keith R. Krueger, CEO of the Consortium for School Networking, a membership organization for education technology professionals.
Some say the money will help educators make better use of new technology in the classroom.
“We believe this new program will empower teachers with the training they need to make the most of education technology and meet the unique needs, learning styles and interest of students,” Brian Lewis, CEO of the International Society for Technology in Education, said in a statement.
If passed, the program would be part of an increasing stream of federal money for school technology. Late last year, the Federal Communications Commission increased the spending limit by $1.5 billion for school and library technology, under the E-rate program. The commission also set priorities on outfitting all the nation’s schools with wireless technology and speedier Internet connections.
This story was written by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Sign up for our newsletter to get a weekly update on blended learning.