Wednesday, April 13, 2005


Good article on my favorite public policy issues: technology and education. Forbes writer, Andrew T. Gillies, spotlights some budget cuts that might hurt the education of our children:

Three weeks ago, 858 people showed up in Washington for a conference, hosted by the Consortium for School Networking, on the use of technology in K-12 education. The mood at the event? "Pretty somber," reports participant Bruce Wilcox, chief executive of an education technology venture called Project Inkwell.

Weighing on the group: money troubles. For one, concerns simmered about the fate of E-Rate, or the Schools and Libraries Universal Service Support Mechanism. The U.S. government program, funded by fees added to phone bills and devoted to wiring schools to the Internet, has been wracked by charges of fraud and mismanagement.

A more immediate worry was President George W. Bush's proposed education budget for fiscal 2006. The budget, released in February, proposes eliminating a program known as Enhancing Education Through Technology. Created as part of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, EETT doles out grants for integrating technology into schools. The program received $500 million in fiscal 2005, down from $700 million in 2002.

To justify killing EETT, the Bush Administration stated that "schools today offer a greater level of technology infrastructure than just a few years ago," and pointed to other federal money, such as Title I Grants to Local Educational Agencies, that can go toward technology. Project Inkwell's Wilcox argues that if technology is forced to compete for dollars with all other school priorities, the process of improving technology in schools could slow down drastically. And the reason won't just be stodgy school administrators but also the nature of the educational technology marketplace itself.

That market is one Wilcox knows well, having spent the last 18 years in it. His latest employer, Project Inkwell, is a tiny, for-profit enterprise with a huge mission: to rally the technology industry to create a class of low-cost and rugged computers, specifically designed for students, that require less maintenance and support than today's desktops and laptops. The venture was launched by Mark Anderson, a technology investor and author of a big-picture tech newsletter, Strategic News Service, that boasts Bill Gates and Michael Dell among its subscribers. (full article)

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