Education technology will receive a renewed focus in President Obama’s proposed FY 2015 budget, which suggests creating a “fresh framework for delivering STEM education, supporting what works, and reducing fragmentation.”
Through the Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative, 100,000 teachers in 500 districts will have access to professional development to help them effectively use broadband connectivity via the ConnectEDucators program.
Having a dedicated resource to work with teachers as they have consistent and reliable access to tech can be a “game-changer,” said U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, noting that blended learning has huge potential in education.
(Next page: Budget details)
The House Education Committee on Friday endorsed a bill giving millions more dollars to the STEM Action Center, the Salt Lake Tribune reports. The center, which is in the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, works with schools and businesses to improve science, technology, engineering and math education in Utah. HB150, proposed by Rep. Val Peterson, R-Orem, would put $23.5 million more into the center this year. However, Peterson and lawmakers who back the plan acknowledged legislative leaders may pencil in the center for much less new money…
For schools looking to spend limited dollars allocated for technology in smart and efficient ways, lessons learned over years of making tough decisions can be helpful, Mind/Shift reports. Mark Samberg, who has worked in education for 13 years, first as a K-12 tech director and later as a district level technology director, has some sage advice. Samberg is a research associate for the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation, a center at North Carolina State University dedicated to helping figure out what tech solutions work in classrooms and to sharing what its researchers learn with educators. “Schools are making the best decisions they can given the information they have,” Samberg said. “It’s very difficult to stay on top of what’s new and cutting edge when you’ve got a billion other things going on.”
For schools across the country, mobile device management and online testing concerns start at the basic level: “How do we get the internet and infrastructure needed?” As it turns out, even the eRate stops short, and schools just can’t find the funding they need. That’s why many districts are turning to their states and local districts for help.
“It’s very important to plan ahead, you can’t stress that enough,” said John Harrington, CEO of Funds for Learning, which provides consulting and support services for the needs of eRate program participants. “Knowing how much broadband you have can be done with multiple speed tests that are available online, but that’s the snapshot of where you are today; it doesn’t answer where you want to be—in terms of internet and infrastructure—in the future.”
Planning ahead can help districts determine how many devices they want to support, the number of students they plan to support over the next few years, and the activities they’d like to have involving online and mobile learning in the future, said Harrington.
“Sometimes if the need isn’t that great, or if a district is already secure in their infrastructure and internet, it’s as simple as a call to the phone company. But if new infrastructure is needed, well, that’s where the real problems begin,” he said.
(Next page: The real school internet problem)
Roughly one year into its existence, Google Capital is wasting no time in putting its money to work, the New York Times reports. Renaissance Learning, an education technology company, plans to announce on Wednesday that it has received a $40 million investment from the Google fund in exchange for a minority stake. The deal values Renaissance at $1 billion. The investment on Wednesday is the third disclosed by Google Capital, which the internet behemoth created to invest in late-stage technology start-ups in search of additional capital…
The stimulus package that provided funding for states as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) may have done more harm than good, suggests a new report. Instead of continuing to invest in crucial parts of education post-stimulus, many states have sacrificed fair school funding.
During the beginning of the U.S. economy’s recession in 2008, the federal government created a stimulus package to support public schools and prevent major layoffs and cuts in essential programs and services through the ARRA.
However, when the federal ARRA funding was depleted, many states were left with budget shortfalls.
“When the stimulus ended, states faced a crucial test: either restore revenue or allow cuts to education funding and programs,” according to the report. “This [data] shows many of the states failed this test, sacrificing fair school funding after the foreseeable loss of federal stimulus.”
(Next page: Fairness principles)
School funding difficulties show no sign of abating this February, and school budgets are stretched to the limit. Many educators and administrators rely on school grants to fund important projects and opportunities for students.
During the beginning of every month, the editors of eSchool News compile a list of the most current education grants expiring soon—from a focus on incorporating neuroscience into education to incorporating classroom projects. You don’t want to miss out on these February school funding opportunities for teachers, students, parents, and administrators!
(Next page: February’s funding opportunities)
William R. Hite Jr., superintendent of schools here in one of the nation’s poorest cities, is known as a man who prefers collaboration to confrontation, but he has spent the academic year taking no prisoners, The New York Times reports. He laid off almost 4,000 workers to close a $304 million budget gap and threatened to keep school doors locked until officials found stopgap money to ensure what he considered a basic level of security for students. He says he was just warming up. Since joining the district in October 2012 from his previous post as superintendent in Prince George’s County, Md., Dr. Hite has battled what he called a perfect storm of cuts, in which state reductions coincided with the ending of federal stimulus dollars…
2014 marks the third year of the BrainWare Brain Awareness Week Grants. The grant program is designed to promote a broader understanding of the importance of brain research and its contribution to effective learning and cognitive development in schools, and in recognition of Brain Awareness Week 2014. Brain Awareness Week, sponsored by the Dana Foundation, is scheduled for March 10 to 16, 2014. Up to 18 school applicants will receive a variety of awards with a value totaling over $100,000 in licenses for BrainWare SAFARI cognitive development software or SkateKids and Ramps To Reading cogniitively based reading programs.
In an effort to promote its Together in Education (TIE) program and to also encourage customers to try its private label products, Harris Teeter is launching the Harris Teeter Together in Education $100,000 Giveaway which rewards customers for supporting schools through TIE. Each week of the contest, Jan. 22, 2014 through April 2, 2014, Harris Teeter’s TIE Prize Patrol will distribute a cash prize up to $10,000 per winner (“Weekly Contestant”). If the Weekly Contestant does not earn the entire $10,000 cash prize, the TIE Prize Patrol will visit Alternative Weekly Contestants until the entire prize is distributed for that particular contest week. Every VIC household that is linked to a school in Harris Teeter’s TIE program is eligible to participate. When the TIE Prize Patrol visits a Weekly Contestant’s home, the Weekly Contestant will automatically receive $250, and Harris Teeter will donate $250 to the TIE school to which the Weekly Contestant’s VIC card is linked. The Weekly Contestant will also receive $50 for every Harris Teeter Brand product found in his/her home, up to 95 products. Harris Teeter will donate the equivalent prize to the TIE school to which the Weekly Contestant’s VIC card is linked.
The Kohl’s Department Stores Kohl’s Cares Scholarship Program will award nearly $400,000 in scholarships and prizes to more than 2,300 young volunteers who have made a positive impact in their communities. Nominations for kids aged six to 18 will be accepted January 31 – March 14 at kohlskids.com. Kohl’s is encouraging parents, teachers, neighbors and friends to nominate outstanding youth, in celebration of their time, energy and passion to helping others. Two nominees from each of the more than 1,100 Kohl’s stores nationwide will win a $50 Kohl’s gift card, and nearly 200 will win regional scholarships worth $1,000 toward higher education. Ten national winners will be awarded a total of $10,000 in scholarships for higher education, and Kohl’s will donate $1,000 to a nonprofit organization on each national winner’s behalf.
The Kids In Need Foundation, a national, non-profit organization dedicated to providing free school supplies to economically disadvantaged school children and under-funded teachers, is launching its fourth annual teacher grants program sponsored by Elmer’s Products Inc., an industry leader in adhesives, arts and crafts, office and educational products. Beginning February 14, teachers nationwide can visit the Kids In Need Foundation website to apply for an Elmer’s Teacher Tool Kit grant that can range from $100 to $500. The grants will be given to certified K-12 teachers who wish to conduct classroom projects from the website catalog of award winning projects previously funded by the Kids In Need Foundation. More than 1,200 projects are in the catalog. Applicants will be asked to register for the Elmer’s Teacher Club, which offers special features and benefits throughout the year for teachers. Applications will be available online at www.kinf.org. This year, 270-300 grants sponsored by Elmer’s will be provided to teachers nationwide. Grant awards will be based on financial need and how well the chosen projects meet the educational needs of the applicants’ students. Special consideration is given to first-year teachers.
A volunteer at a Houston-area elementary school who noticed some students were getting a smaller lunch of cold cheese sandwiches is digging into his own pocket to cover delinquent meal accounts so every child can get the same full lunch tray, the Associated Press reports. Kenny Thompson is a volunteer tutor and mentor at Valley Oaks Elementary in Houston. He says he asked about the lunch differences after hearing about some Utah students who lost meals because of non-payment…
In what could be one of the most heartening examples of putting money where a mouth is, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler just announced that the eRate will change in three significant ways to put money into the hands of schools immediately in order to provide internet access and close the digital divide.
“A little known fact about today’s eRate program is that only about half of the program’s funds go for broadband connectivity,” explained Wheeler. “Well less than half goes for the kind of 100 mbps and higher speeds necessary for today’s learning environment. In a 2013 National School Speed Test 72 percent of schools–that is nearly 40 million students didn’t have the access speeds they needed.”
Wheeler’s speech, part of National Digital Learning Day hosted at the Library of Congress, comes a day after President Obama announced over $750 million in private and public investment for high-speed internet in schools. (Read: “What to do with millions of dollars for education technology.”)
Wheeler related a recent experience at a middle school where the students described how the network would crash if too many of them pushed “Enter” simultaneously, and having to walk around the room holding their tablets up until they got a WiFi signal.
“Catherine Sandoval, one of the leading lights in state utility commissions, told me how students in one California school had to be bussed to another school to take the online core curriculum tests,” said Wheeler, “and how students in Beverly Hills were advantaged over students in less affluent schools because they were used to taking tests online whereas other students were not.”
“When 80 percent of teachers and administrators in schools participating in the eRate program say they do not have the bandwidth necessary to meet their educational needs, we have a problem that must be fixed,” he continued.
(Next page: 3 ways the eRate will be fixed immediately)
A retired teacher who worked with special-needs kids, the late Margaret Southern drove a 1980s Cadillac, lived in a modest home and had just one indulgence in life: taking her friends out to eat from time to time, the Huffington Post reports. So when the Greenville, S.C., community learned that the humble resident, who died at age 94 in 2012, had left $8.4 million to the Community Foundation of Greenville, a group that provides grants to targeted programs, they were pretty shocked to say the least, Greenville S.C. News reported. The donation was made public this week as the first of the annual grant distributions will be doled out this month, the foundation announced…
The $1 billion increase comes from existing eRate funds and will push eRate program funds for broadband grants to $2 billion.
In a recent blog post, Wheeler noted that the FCC is poised to boost eRate funding, adding that a detailed plan is forthcoming.
(Next page: Details on the increased broadband funding)
A group of 50 executives, innovators, and entrepreneurs joined the nonprofit organization EducationSuperHighway on Jan. 30 to urge the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to modernize the federal eRate program – a move that will help advance President Obama’s ConnectED goal to connect 99 percent of America’s K-12 students to high-speed broadband in five years.
The group includes CEOs from American Express, Adobe, Airbnb, Bloomberg L.P., Dell, Dropbox, eBay, EMC Corporation, Facebook, Foursquare, Google, HP, Intuit, Microsoft, Netflix, Salesforce.com, Tory Burch, Xerox, and Yahoo and represents approximately $785 billion in annual economic activity and two million workers.
The nonprofit got a funding boost in December 2013, when Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates offered support for the organization. Zuckerberg’s Startup: Education and Gates’ foundation have contributed a combined $9 million to the nonprofit.
(Next page: Details from the letter)
Fifty years after President Johnson declared a “war on poverty,” there is broad disagreement over whether the nation’s anti-poverty measures have been a success.
But when you compare rising child poverty rates with stagnant funding for programs such as Title I, one thing seems clear: Congress isn’t doing enough to help our poorest children.
This month, a highly partisan Congress came together and passed a budget for fiscal 2014. Sure, lawmakers were three months late with their action—but most pundits applauded them for putting aside their differences and passing a reasonable bill.
There was much to like about the final 2014 budget, if you’re an educator. For instance, it includes more money for early childhood education—and it rolls back most of the cuts from sequestration that have been so devastating to many schools.
But forgive me if I’m not impressed. While educators certainly will welcome getting back nearly 90 percent of the funding lost to sequestration, the truth is that the 2014 budget still falls short of providing for our nation’s most vulnerable students. And Title I funding is a perfect example.
Established as part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, the federal Title I program was a cornerstone of President Johnson’s War on Poverty.
A large percentage of K-12 funding comes from local property taxes, meaning that students in wealthier neighborhoods enjoy higher per-pupil funding than their peers in other schools. Title I was meant to offset this disparity and give poor children a more level playing field for their education.
But as the number of U.S. children living in poverty has risen, Title I funding hasn’t kept pace—especially in the last few years.
(Next page: How Title I funding compares to rising child poverty rates)
Maryland schools will be scrambling to make $100 million in technological and other upgrades to give new state tests aligned with the Common Core standards next year, according to a report to the legislature by the Maryland State Department of Education, The Baltimore Sun reports. Some local school systems would need to shut down some of the normal uses of the computers, including sending email, to give the online standardized tests, the report said. Some districts reported that they need to buy thousands of new computers for the tests, which are required by the spring of 2015; others said they had nowhere to put the computers that they need to buy. Lawmakers said the magnitude of the hurdles that school districts face — and the price tags — are concerning…
Congress has passed a federal budget for the 2014 fiscal year that includes more money for early childhood education, a priority of President Obama.
The budget also restores most of the funding cut from education programs such as Title I and special education under sequestration last year. But the funding for these large formula-grant programs still falls short of 2012 levels.
Under the 2014 budget, Title I grants for disadvantaged students will receive $14.4 billion, and state grants under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) will get $11.5 billion.
In 2012, Title I received a high-water mark of $14.5 billion and IDEA got $11.6 billion. But last year, sequestration—the automatic, across-the-board reduction of more than 5 percent in funding to federal programs—brought these figures down to $13.8 billion and $11 billion, respectively.
The Head Start program, which lost 57,000 seats to sequestration, was a big winner in the 2014 budget, getting an increase of $1 billion, to nearly $8.6 billion. But Congress did not include $750 million in funding that President Obama had requested for states to expand preschool education to more students.
The Obama administration’s signature education program, Race to the Top, will continue with $250 million to support another round of early learning grants, which so far have been awarded to 20 states. But lawmakers turned down a request for $1 billion to fund a Race to the Top competition for higher education. Instead, they approved $75 million for a new “First in the World” fund to help colleges test new strategies to improve graduation rates.
(Next page: Changes to School Improvement Grants—and reaction to the budget from education groups)