Education IT holds steady

Funding for information technology stayed virtually the same in the president's budget request for the Education Department.

The Bush administration is asking for $56.5 billion for Education in fiscal 2003, with $580.3 million set aside for IT.

The proposal provides $50.3 billion in discretionary funding — a 2.8 percent increase.

"The increases in our budget will not be of the magnitude of the defense, homeland security and economic recovery increases, but they will build upon the series of major increases that have led to a more than doubling in this agency's discretionary budget since 1996," William Hansen, Education's deputy secretary, said at a briefing Feb. 4.

"More important, the president's request will offer states, schools and families the resources they need to implement the changes called for in the No Child Left Behind Act signed into law last month," Hansen said. That legislation calls for stronger accountability, increased local control, expanded options for parents and an emphasis on teaching methods that have been proven to work.

The request includes $10 million for a new Performance-Based Data Management Initiative to develop an electronic data system on student achievement and educational outcomes.

"The federal government's old approach of issuing and collecting voluminous reports that had little utility for decision-makers or the public will be replaced by a new system that uses the latest technology to make the performance information readily available," the administration says in its proposal.

Plans to reform data collection for student loans are also being developed.

Some of Education's financial aid operations are already electronic. The proposal includes $37.5 million in IT spending for aid applications — a 23.4 percent increase. However, funding for loan repayment as well as aid origination and disbursement took a slight hit.

"There has been success in using new technologies to simplify students' access to financial aid, such as using electronic signatures for aid applications and promissory notes," the administration says. "Yet the department's failure to implement mandated planning requirements could lead to unwise investments or the use of obsolete technologies."

Based on these findings, the agency received a mixed review for e-government.

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