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Significant Potential State and Federal Funding Available for Technology

February 15, 2016

Legislative Update for CUE Members - February 2016 | more leg updates

Prepared by John Cradler, CUE Legislative Policy Consultant


CUE Leaders at White House for National Ed Tech Plan & Future Ready 2.0 Launch

The signing of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) by President Obama, on December 10, 2015, represents a significant shift in education policy. Following years of an enhanced federal role under NCLB, the current reauthorization gives State Education Agencies and school districts much broader autonomy in shaping education policy, particularly on issues related to funding, access, data, and accountability.

A recent report from the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) summarized the new Federal education budget signed by the President as being a huge win for ISTE. The analysis by ISTE states that the new ESSA federal budget includes over $1 billion potentially available for educational technology.  ISTE CEO Brian Lewis stated:

“ISTE entered into the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization process with a critical objective: the new ESEA must contain a meaningful and fundable K-12 education technology program to complement E-Rate-funded classroom connectivity. The final version of the budget, now called the Every Students Succeeds Act (ESSA) rewrites and revamps ESEA more than meets this goal. Within ESSA, educational technology occupies a large and prominent space in the $1.65 billion Title IV flexible block grant, thereby allowing school districts to gain access to a large new funding resource that they can use for technology, digital content, and related professional development.”

The ESSA bill provides a great deal of flexibility on how states and districts spend their Federal education dollars by eliminating or consolidating 50 different individual, issue-focused categorical programs and establishing large block grants to States.  Review of the details of the ESSA has determined that about $1 billion of these flexible block grant funds to States may potentially be used for educationally purposed technology. With this approach, there will be no specific educational technology grant programs like the earlier Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) grants.

Each State will receive a Title I formula-based allocation, to be reallocated by the Title I formula to school districts. Each district receiving the formula allocation above $30,000 must spend 20 percent of its block grant on safe and healthy school programs to include counseling, drug-free schools, civics, STEM, AP/IB and other programs defined in in the ESSA. Based on local decision-making, the remaining 60% may be spent on technology, blending learning and professional development.

Instead of applying for funds already targeted for educational technology through a competitive grant process, persons interested in funding technology will need to convince local schools and districts to allocate a portion of the new ESSA Block Grant to support educational technology. This means that it is critical that educators who desire funding for technology, actively participate in local committees responsible for preparing plans and budgets for ESSA in collaboration with other educators who will probably have their own priorities for this new approach to funding. For additional information about ESSA: http://www.ed.gov/ESSA   

Block Grants trended at both the National Level and in California: The National trend to Block Grant funding to States is reflected in the California Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) Block Grants of State Funding to school districts. As discussed in prior OnCUE articles, the allocation of LCFF funds would be generally defined in the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP), which would address funding for all school and district use of LCFF funds. As with the Federal ESSA funding educators must become proactively involved in the local planning committees to ensure that needed educational technology resources are incorporated into the LCAP.  For additional information about LCFF and LCAP go to: http://www.cde.ca.gov/fg/aa/lc/lcfffaq.asp

Educator Effectiveness Block Grants:  As described in the August CUE Board Legislative Update the State allocated  $490 million to support professional development based on a formula allocating approximately $1,400 per teacher to each district that intended to generally support implementation of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) with a specific focus on: 1) beginning teacher and administrator support, 2) professional development, coaching and support for teachers needing improvement, 3) professional development focused on state adopted content standards, 4) coaching and mentoring certificated staff, and 5) documentation of promising and effective programs, practices, and products.

As with the LCFF, planning for the integration of technology at the school and district level with local planning committees is necessary to ensure that professional development related to instructional uses of technology are considered in developing school and district Educator Effectiveness Block Grant Plans.

California Educator Excellence Summit: On January 20th 2016, The CDE convened a Summit to highlight “promising practices of professional learning systems” at the Sacramento Convention Center. CUE was well represented by Mike Lawrence, Jon Corippo, and myself.  Tom Torlakson stated that the Summit was intended for Summit participants to. . . .

”…learn more about research-supported ways to build and improve local professional learning

systems as our agencies plan how to spend their share of the $490 million in Educator Effectiveness funds included in the 2015-16 State Budget.”

It is unfortunate that CUE as well as at least three others entities involved in educational technology were not selected by CDE to present at the Summit. I was not aware of any focus on technology during any of the sessions and it was not mentioned by any of the keynote speakers. It seems that this would have been a good opportunity for the CDE to refer to the Educational Technology Blueprint that many of us worked on as it suggested many ways that technology could support Common Core State Standards and the related computer adaptive assessment system. Perhaps an Educational Technology Summit is needed that would target ways that technology can support both the content and delivery of professional learning. For additional information about Educator Effectiveness go to: http://www.cde.ca.gov/nr/ne/yr12/yr12rel9.asp

Implications of Block Granting for Educational Technology: An advantage of the block grant approach is that significant funding is potentially available to schools and districts with the administrative leadership and community support for carefully planning and integrating technology into the instructional programs. Most districts will need to provide for staff with qualifications to plan, select, implement, and maintain hardware, establish needed connectivity, and procure standards-aligned content and related professional development needed to realize the benefits of technology. This increases the need for CUE and other related organizations such as CEDPA, ISTE, CoSN, and others to be proactive in informing educators at the local level about these needs and potentially contract for services using district LCFF and Educator Effectiveness Grant funding. The need for local support was also increased with the elimination CTAP, CLRN along with reduced funding to County Offices of Education and the CDE to support educational technology planning and implementation.


Governor’s Proposed Budget for 2016-17: The Governor's Budget proposal was presented to the Legislature on January 7, 2016. On January 11, 2016. The budget included significant increases in revenues and school funding. For education, the budget augments the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) by $2.8 billion, shifts $1.7 billion from existing preschool programs into a new preschool block grant, providing $1.2 billion for K-14 discretionary one-time purposes. This would increase funding levels by nearly $3,600 per student in 2016‑17. The proposed budget would also augment UC and CSU by a combined $250 million and designates $200 million for new community college workforce programs. Many more details will emerge as the Legislature begins to introduce new legislation during the next few months. The proposed budget will be revised after much review and discussion by the Legislature with a new version to be published in May 2016. There will be legislation introduced that will affect many details in the budget. The final State budget will be completed sometime in July of 2016.


Note: the photo above was taken on December 10, 2015, the date of the launch of the National Ed Tech Plan and Future Ready 2.0. It features Acting Secretary of Education (then 'Designee') John B. King and CUE CEO Mike Lawrence and COO/CFO Marisol Valles.  It took place roughly 3 hours after President Obama signed ESSA on the same stage. 


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