Sep 12 2008

Education Plea Hits the Campaign Trail

Make technology a priority, four groups tell both presidential candidates.

With the presidential election just two months away, four prominent education associations have banded together to make one plea to both candidates: Make sure student access to technology and 21st-century classrooms becomes a national priority.

The groups have launched a public-service announcement campaign, dubbed One Giant Leap for Kids, that includes magazine ads, an online petition and a website, “It’s important to make sure the public and politicians [are aware of this issue],” says Mary Ann Wolf, executive director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association. “We’ve made some positive steps, but there’s a long way to go.”

The other groups involved in the effort are the National Education Association, the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) and the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). The coalition sent the PSA to both senators John McCain and Barack Obama, along with five questions to ascertain the candidates’ views on the future of U.S. K–12 education.

Education has been far down the list of hot topics in the run-up to this election, Wolf admits, but she points out that through No Child Left Behind, the federal government’s E-Rate program and the Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) formula grant, the “potential for the federal government to be a catalyst” for innovation exists. Support for the EETT funding is especially critical, she says, because funding through this program has shrunk from $700 million in 2002 to $267.4 million this year.

While the E-Rate program pays mostly for schools to connect to the Internet, the EETT funds have been used for a variety of hardware and professional development needs, Wolf adds. “The job isn’t close to being done yet. There’s a great deal of potential.”

The PSA reads: “On July 20, 1969, astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong planted the U.S. flag on the moon, helping America win the coveted space race. Our great nation realized this seemingly impossible dream by making sound investments in education. Student access to school technology, robust teacher technology preparation and a renewed focus on 21st-century skills are critical to today’s mission.”

“The future competitiveness of the United States is inextricably linked to the investments we make today to improve education, enhance learning and provide our students with the skills and knowledge that will afford them the opportunity to succeed among the best and the brightest competitors in the world,” says Keith Krueger, CEO of CoSN. “The presidential candidates have an opportunity to develop solid education platforms focused on achieving this goal, and we urge them to make education technology an integral part of their education policy.”

“Today’s students need more than a sprinkling of technology literacy to survive,” says Don Knezek, ISTE’s CEO. “They need to learn to leverage 21st-century tools to think critically and creatively, collaborate across cultures and distances, and innovate.”