A new competitive grant program within the Every Student Succeeds Act, ESSA, will fund the development and research of evidence-based innovative technology approaches to student learning. These grants are an additional resource made available to schools. This is an opportunity to begin or expand a grant program in addition to the general availability of new funds in the marketplace.
The block grants intended for technology will likely have an impact on education companies as schools use technology tools to transform teaching and learning. Since it is left to the states to decide what technology to invest in, it opens up the market, providing opportunities for companies to assist district leaders in presenting their case to the state education officials making the funding decisions. It’s too soon to tell, however, how effective districts and states use the flexible block funding to advance blended learning and tech in the classroom.
“Securing the Ed-tech provisions in the updated legislation are a monumental win,” said Brian Lewis, CEO of the International Society for Technology in Education “This flexible formula block grant will give districts the authority to choose technology based education for their classrooms as well as address the issues of inadequate home connectivity for low-income and rural students.”
In theory, that would make nearly $1 billion available for Ed-tech each year for the next four years; however, the caveat is that states must spend at least 40 percent of the money on activities that keep student’s safe and well-rounded. School systems could spend more of their funding on other activities depending on their priorities. Ed-tech leaders will have to be very proactive and make a strong case for technology in presenting their case to state education officials, because there will be other priorities competing for funding. Although, the district procurement process could be shortened because one or more of the approval layers are removed due to the fact that states will be in charge of how the money is spent.
“By investing in strengthening school system infrastructure, addressing digital equity, and building the capacity of school leaders, ESSA recognizes the promise of an e-learning environment for all students,” said Keith Krueger, CEO of the Consortium for School Networking, in a statement. “We are excited to work with the education community and other stakeholders to ensure this law delivers on its commitment to enhancing teaching and learning.”