Education technology gets millions

The economic stimulus law provides $650 million for school purchases that include computers, networks and instructional software.

The new economic stimulus law provides $650 million for schools to buy technologies that include computers, networks and instructional software. School districts also could get access to new broadband networks under the law and could get a share of money for new state data systems.

The law provides more than $100 billion in new funds for education, with most of that money going for budget stabilizations, special education and student grants, but it also allocates $650 million for the Education Department’s Enhancing Education Through Technology program. The House of Representatives’ first version of its stimulus legislation proposed $1 billion in that spending.

“Despite the cut, the new education technology funding will provide many states with substantial new education technology funds,” said Jon Bernstein, legislative consultant to the Consortium for School Networking, an association of school technology officials.

The big winners of technology funds include: California, with $70.8 million; Texas, at $59.4 million; New York, with $55.5 million; Florida, with $30.3 million; Illinois, which will get $26.5 million; Pennsylvania, at $25.3 million, Michigan, scheduled to get $24.5 million, and Puerto Rico, at $24.1 million, Bernstein said.

Small population states will receive at least $3.2 million each for new education technology, he added.

Most of the money will reach school districts between now and the end of fiscal 2010. The law states that all funds will be made available during the 2009 to 2010 and 2010 to 2011 school years but that all funds must be obligated by Sept. 30, 2010.

The law also provides $250 million for Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems, of which up to $5 million may be used for state data coordinators and awards to public or private organizations or agencies to improve data coordination. There is a possibility that a portion of that funding will go toward developing educational data, Bernstein wrote in an analysis on Feb. 20.

Meanwhile, the law provides more than $7 billion for new broadband networks in underserved areas. Nearly $5 billion will be made available through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program.

It is possible that schools will be eligible for those broadband grants, but that is not a sure thing, Bernstein said.

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