Over the past 40 years in California, there was a major increase, and then a recent and sudden decline, in support for educational technology. In preparing information for the 40th Anniversary of CUE (Computer Using Educators) and to document the history of legislation, policy, and funding from 1982 until 2014, it became clear that during the past four decades there has been a high level of state and national support for policies, planning, legislation, and funding, for a wide range of educational technology resources and services.
Most of the CUE pioneers who returned to CUE conference this year were involved in implementing a wide variety of initiatives during the past 40 years, including Teacher Education and Computing Centers (TECC), AB 803 School-Based Educational Technology Grants, Model Technology Schools (MTS), Statewide Educational Technology projects, Soft Swap, Software Preview Centers, Instructional Technology Clearinghouse, California Learning Resource Network (CLRN), California Technology Project (CTP), California Technology Assistance Projects (CTAP), CalSAVE, TICAL, Telemation, and more.
In addition to these state-supported initiatives, there were several significant national programs initiated since 1980: a National Office of Educational Technology, a National Educational Technology Plan, a National Director of Educational Technology, Star Schools video-based distance learning projects, Technology Innovation Challenge Grants, Regional Technology Education Centers, Preparing Tomorrows Teachers to Use Technology (PT3) grans, and Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) grants–all of which have recently been terminated.
In conversations with many of the CUE pioneers, it became evident that the opportunities made possible by supplemental funding and programs authorized by legislation provided the time and incentives to be innovative, and for professional growth. This enabled them to get involved in and become leaders in CUE as a place to share and disseminate effective practices and program through CUE-sponsored state and regional conferences and publications. Many state- and federally- funded projects supported the growth of CUE by providing funding to send educators to CUE conferences, furnishing technology support and equipment for CUE conferences, and events co-funded by state-funded projects, content for many presentations and exhibits of promising practices, and co-sponsoring with CUE statewide and regional professional development events. CUE representatives are also involved in state educational technology planning committees and commissions as well as opportunities for legislators to become engaged in educational technology programs and projects made possible through legislation which they had authored or supported.
At the 2018 Spring CUE Conference, many of the pioneers noted the numerous important state and federal initiatives and programs they initiated no longer exist.
Due to both state and national budget cuts, the state and federal funding for educational technology as well as more than 35 other “categorical” programs were eliminated with the funds going directly to schools under the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF).
Over the past three years, CUE has encouraged school districts to incorporate necessary educational resources into their Local Control Accountability Plans (LCAP). A few districts are using LCFF to support local educational technology resource needs. However, most are under pressure to use the funds for salaries, facilities, and other locally determined needs. State and national programs and projects offered a variety of benefits that are not possible with LCFF, including funding and guidelines that support: 1) projects to innovate and test new applications of technology to support teaching and learning; 2) dissemination and local adoptions of effective practices and programs; 3) staff and resources needed to objectively review and align with content standards, and; 4) recommend effective digital instructional resources.
These projects generally resulted in replicable practices that would show significant improvement in teaching and learning by reducing local duplication of effort. Regional services saved significant local funding and equity was addressed because small and rural districts without local resources could apply for categorical project funding for needed technology support and training.
It is important to mention that nearly all educational programs and projects legislated from 1982 to 2014 were based on well-documented needs determined by surveys of teachers and school administrators, external evaluations of educational program needs, educational research, policy decisions made by legislators, school boards, educational associations, and community organizations.
The State Superintendent’s California Educational Technology Blueprint for 2012 clearly recommended continuing many of the programs and services supported by the previous legislation with modification and expansion to address the Blueprint’s recommendations. At this year’s Spring CUE Conference, there was much discussion the importance of looking at what worked in the past four decades and using that information to help the future of technology in education. Available extensive evaluation data documents the cost-benefits and effectiveness of most of the programs and services previously available to California teachers and administrators.
CUE is helping to fill some of the gaps left by the cuts but cannot offer the millions of dollars and leverage of resources previously available from the state and federal sources, not to mention the current and emerging equity of technology access issues. However, CUE is taking a lead role in actively engaging in activities to support legislation and policies that address the need for support of, and open access to technology to support teaching and learning at school and at home.
John Cradler is a legislative policy consultant with CUE and works with the CUE board, staff and Legislative Advocacy Committee to advise on policy, legislation and other public initiatives to support CUE’s mission and vision. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.