VSTE Advocates for Fully Funding Title IV, Part A

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Dr. Karen Richardson, VSTE Executive Director, was part of a press event on Capitol Hill, May 18, 2016, asking Congress to fully fund Title IV, Part A, the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grant (SSAEG) program, which includes the initiative's critically important education technology provisions.

We are urging VSTE members to contact Congress to ask them to fully fund this program. You can learn more about this issue and send a letter at the CoSN Advocacy website.

Here are her remarks:

My name is Karen Richardson and I am Executive Director of the Virginia Society for Technology in Education. CSTE is an affiliate of the International Society for Technology in Education. My role here today is to talk about the importance of fully funding Title IV, Part A in the context of this program's education technology priority.

My first exposure to computers came in 1984 at my first job at a large metropolitan art museum. While I began there in a world of typewriters and paper, within a year, a PC arrived on my desk as well of the desks of almost everyone else in the professional staff.

Fast forward to today, where it would be a very unusual business that did not provide a computer for its working professionals, maybe even multiple devices including laptops and phones. And yet, we seem to still be arguing over whether we should provide funding for computers for students and educators. Moreover, even with all of the technology training private sector employees receive now, there is still debate as to whether we should fund technology professional development for educators. We simply cannot allow digital technologies and technology training to continue to be add ons for our classrooms in a world where they are otherwise ubiquitous. 

Thirty-two years after I received my first computer at my job, far too many of our students and teachers are in schools -- and sometimes in homes -- without access to technology and broadband. It is far worse in our poor and rural communities where broadband access is more difficult to find and more expensive and personal devices are unattainable luxury items.

And yet despite all the challenges, many schools ARE innovating: the are opening up makerspaces in libraries, finding ways to offer multiple pathways to learning for their students, initiating 1:1 programs to level the playing field, sending mifis home with students and teaching kids to code. But fully funding Title IV, Part A would really help all of our schools to innovate.

Fully funding Title IV, Part would mean opportunities for all. It would allow school districts to invest in appropriate, on-demand professional development for educators, allowing them to not only understand how to use the latest digital tools and devices but to integrate them into their classroom curricula and personalize learning. It would allow districts to purchase devices, equipment and software for their neediest students, helping close what we call the "homework gap" which prevents too many low income and rural students from full participation in their educations. It would allow states and districts to hire technology directors, who have the expertise needed to orchestrate education technology initiatives. It would allow districts to provide their students with the computer science and coding skills that will make them successful not just in high school but in college, the workplace and life.

Back in 1984, I didn't know that I even needed a computer. Today, I know that technology is indispensable for my life and work. And it is the same for the lives and futures of our children.

I am here today to urge Congress not to shortchange our students and our country by underfunding this important program. My message is simple: fully funding Title IV, Part A is vital to us all.