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House Passes Artificial Intelligence National Strategy That Includes Education To-Do List

house passes artificial intelligence national strategy that includes education to do list
Capitol BlueSky 900x500Socialmedia Getty

K-12 researchers have been pushing the idea that policymakers must get more involved in the ongoing discussion about emerging artificial intelligence technologies and what role they’ll play in classrooms of the future.

And now one branch of Congress has taken its first step — albeit somewhat of a baby step — in that direction.

The U.S. House has passed a bipartisan and nonbinding resolution to create a national AI strategy that, in part, highlights the need for continued planning in the area of education and AI. 

Specifically, the resolution notes the need for things like: 

  • Teacher prep programs that can increase the number of educators in STEM fields 
  • New grant programs to integrate AI ethics courses into science and engineering classes
  • New education programs related to AI that provide industry-recognized credentials and certificates and the inclusion of students from historically under-represented groups in technology education programs to help promote a “diverse artificial intelligence workforce.” 

The resolution — backed by Reps. Will Hurd (R-Texas) and Robin Kelly (D-Ill.), both vocal advocates of Congress spending more money on AI research — focuses on several key areas as part of the national AI strategy: workforce development, national security, research and development and ethics. 

It was created with input from industry experts and the Bipartisan Policy Center, a D.C.-based think tank that said they are hopeful the resolution “will lead to a coordinated federal approach on the best way to develop and use this evolving technology.”

A recently-released report noted that the involvement of policymakers in AI’s development is “imperative” to ensure the technology not only reaches its full potential but that its use in K-12 education is “equitable, ethical, and effective and to mitigate weaknesses, risks, and potential harm.” 

AI has been used in classrooms for years, in products ranging from smart tutoring and essay grading services to AI-enabled assessments. But researchers say AI technology for K-12 is quickly evolving to include more advanced technologies that could one day transform classrooms. 

Since the resolution is nonbinding, it serves as a symbolic gesture from the House on what lawmakers in the lower chamber believe is the best way forward for Congress and the White House to help develop AI technologies. 

In a statement, Kelly said the resolution should signal AI priorities to the incoming administration. 

“If we are to meet the challenges of tomorrow,” she said, “the U.S. must begin investing now in our workforce, education, research and development, and national security to ensure that this technology will positively benefit society.”

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After a District Makes a Wave of Device Purchases, What Comes Next?

after a district makes a wave of device purchases what comes
MB K 12 Insider Dec 10

Indianapolis Schools Superintendent Aleesia Johnson talks about how the how the district’s recent, massive tech investments will shape its opportunities, and its needs.

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Election Results: A Muddled Picture for K-12 Funding and the Education Industry

election results a muddled picture for k 12 funding and the education industry
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks to supporters early Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

This year’s election appears to offer mixed results for the nation’s school districts–and for the companies and organizations that serve them–judging from results that are still rolling in.

The overwhelming amount of attention has focused on the U.S. presidential race, where Democrat Joe Biden and incumbent Republican Donald Trump were locked in a process that could take days to resolve because of the narrow vote margin and the slow pace of counting in many vote-rich precincts in key states.

But there were also many key elections and ballot measures in play at the state level, with big implications for K-12 policy and funding.

Check back here for updates as they come in.

A White House Race That Could Sway K-12 Budgets

The battle to control the presidency appears to come down to a few key states, including Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Georgia.

Biden appeared to notch a key victory on the electoral college map when he flipped Arizona from GOP to Democratic control. If he were to win some combination of Pennsylvania and another state in the upper Midwest, it would appear to give him the 270 electoral college votes necessary to win.

Trump appeared to be poised to contest the vote-counting process in those states, as Democrats make gains in tallies conducted overnight and today. The Republican incumbent made false claims overnight about election fraud and vowed to challenge the results in court.

President Donald Trump speaks in the East Room of the White House, early Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

If elected, Biden has vowed to greatly expand funding for schools–which has risen under Trump–by channeling new money into Title I and other major federal funding sources. (See Brian Bradley’s pre-election breakdown of the issues at stake.)

Education advocates also see the potential for new federal funding for after-school programs and other needs, if Biden wins.

The party in control of the White House also controls the leadership of the Federal Communications Commission. Ed-tech groups believe a Biden victory would lead to more funding and policy changes that are more favorable to creating new flexibility with the E-rate program, which supports internet connectivity in schools.

Congress: More Gridlock Ahead?

Either presidential candidate’s ability to set the education agenda and funding levels also rests in large measure on who controls Congress. Democrats, who kept a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, had hoped to wrest a majority in the U.S. Senate from Republicans.

But Republicans appear to have fought back challenges in several key races, including Iowa and North Carolina. Some analysts on Wednesday were predicting the results would lead to a 50-50 split in the Senate, raising fears of an even greater degree of gridlock and partisan rancor than exists now.

Many school groups are hoping that Congress will eventually deliver billions of dollars in additional emergency aid for school districts, which have been coping with new financial costs and the continued likelihood of declining revenues caused by the pandemic.

State Legislatures and Key Ballot Items

A total of 6,000 legislative seats in 44 states were up for election on Tuesday. State legislatures and governors typically play a key role in shaping K-12 policy and spending, since states contribute a much bigger share of funding to schools than does the federal government.

Many of those results are still rolling in, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

EdWeek Market Brief is watching the results in several states, including Michigan, which is controlled by the GOP; Colorado and Nevada, which are controlled by Democrats, and Minnesota, which is split.

But as of Wednesday mid-day, the results of those races had not been called.

Education advocates are hoping to channel new funding into K-12 through ballot measures, which would most likely have an impact on districts’ ability to spend on new products and services.

Early results on Wednesday suggested some of those high-profile measures were on their way to victory, while others were on the brink of defeat.

  • California Proposition 15. While pre-election polls had shown that California voters were narrowly in favor of Proposition 15, results from election night indicated that the ballot measure was poised to fall short of passing by a slim margin. The state’s election tallies, which were not yet final, indicated Wednesday morning that a bare majority, 51.7 percent, of voters rejected the ballot measure, while 48.3 percent of voters approved it, out of a total of about 11 million votes cast. State officials said 94.5 percent of the state’s precincts had partially reported results, and that totals could change during the canvassing period.
  • Arizona’s Proposition 208. The measure would create a 3.5 percent income tax surcharge on taxable income above $250,000 for an individual or $500,000 for those filing jointly. All of the new money would go to K-12 education, with half of it meant to create new positions for teachers and classroom support personnel, and boost base compensation for teachers and classroom support personnel. The results, so far, show the measure passing with just over 50 percent of the vote.
  • A Colorado ballot item that created a tax on various nicotine products and devoted the money to schools has been approved by voters, the Denver Post reports. The measure would raise taxes by nearly $300 million annually, according to estimates. The money would help support preschool and rural schools, among other needs.

Check back on this post as election results are confirmed in the days ahead.

Photos: Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks to supporters early Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik). President Donald Trump speaks in the East Room of the White House, early Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

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A Key Election Issue for the Education Industry: California’s Proposition 15

a key election issue for the education industry californias proposition 15
California Proposition 15

At a time when school districts across the country are desperate for funding, California’s Proposition 15 would seem poised to do its part to help schools in the state in a major way.

The ballot measure, which state voters will vote up or down tomorrow, would raise taxes on commercial and industrial property, by assessing them based on their market value, not purchase price.

Estimates of how much new money the ballot item would channel to schools vary.

But the California Legislative Analyst’s Office has said it would eventually would raise taxes by between $7.5 billion and $12 billion per year. Some of the money would be offset by new costs, such as a decrease in personal and corporate taxes, which would leaving $6.5 billion to $11.5 billion annually. Of that amount, 40 percent would go to schools and community colleges — mostly based on how many students they have, says the LAO.

The measure is likely to have implications for companies and other organizations in the key state education market, if districts end up with new running room to pay for programs and products.

The measure simply needs win a simple majority of votes from Californians to take effect. Recent polls have shown that more voters favor than oppose it, albeit narrowly. A poll released late last month by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California found that 49 percent of voters back the measure, and 45 percent are against.

Here’s how public opinion has changed from September to October:

California Proposition 15

Democrats and younger voters tend to back the measure much more strongly than Republicans. Less than half of homeowners approve of Proposition 15, the PPIC found.

(The graphic above also alludes to Proposition 16, a constitutional amendment that would repeal Proposition 209 and allow the reinstatement of affirmative action programs in public education and employment, within certain bounds of the law. The measure has been shown to have limited support in polls.)

Proposition 15 measure reflects a turn away from Proposition 13, a ballot measure approved in 1978 that put caps on residential and commercial property, said Mark Baldassare, PPIC’s president. Proposition 15 does not change residential property taxes.

One of the distinctive features of the proposition, he added, is that voters are not being asked to directly change how much they’re taxing themselves and their homes, because the ballot item focuses on commercial property. In that sense, he said, there’s been “nothing like it” in California’s recent ballot history.

“The polls here have been remarkably consistent – voters are divided,” Baldassare said.

For a broader sense of sense of the issues at stake for the education market in the 2020 election, please see EdWeek Market Brief’s recent breakdown by Brian Bradley. He writes about ballot measures, and the impact of races at the state and federal level.

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How the 2020 Elections Will Shape the Education Industry

how the 2020 elections will shape the education industry
MB Market Trends Oct 8

Elections can have a sweeping impact on education policy, shaping everything from school choice to budgets to the scope of state and federal mandates.

But state and federal elections in 2020 will occur during an unprecedented, persistent pandemic, which is likely to have a prolonged impact on education and the economy, no matter who comes…

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K-12 Budgets Face Grim Outlook, as States Will Need Years to Recover From COVID Recession

k 12 budgets face grim outlook as states will need years to recover from covid recession

Already battered by the coronavirus recession, governors and state lawmakers will be forced to make even deeper budget cuts over the next two fiscal years to areas such as K-12 education, as a result of big declines in state revenues, according to a new analysis,

New data from the National Association of State Budget Officers show that for the first time in roughly a decade — since the last recession —  a majority of states closed their fiscal 2020 books with a decline in general revenue funds.

The NASBO data cover states that end their fiscal year in June, which leaves out a total of five, including two of the biggest: Texas and New York. 

According to the NASBO figures, those 45 states reported an average revenue shortfall of 6 percent in fiscal 2020, from a combination of sales, income and corporate tax collections, lottery and gaming revenue and other funding sources falling short of projections.

And the NASBO report came with a stark warning: Things are going to get worse before there’s any kind of rebound. As economic activity continues to be significantly depressed and unemployment remains high, the COVID-19 recession will continue to weaken state coffers throughout the current fiscal 2021 year.

Overall, it will be several years before states fully dig themselves out of coronavirus budget holes, according to NASBO, and future revenue losses stemming from the current recession are forecast to surpass “the 11.6 percent drop states experienced over two years during and following the Great Recession, with some states anticipating revenue declines of 20 percent or more.” 

Without additional federal aid to offset these revenue losses, the report says, states will be forced to make deeper cuts to services and spending and turn to tax increases. That could, in turn, create a drag on economic growth at a time when the nation’s economy is attempting to recover. 

NASBO Graphic

Districts rely immensely on state funding sources, and school systems with relatively large Black, Latino, and low-income student populations can in some cases receive more than half their revenue from state aid. 

Brian Sigritz, NASBO’s director of state fiscal studies, said governors and lawmakers dealing with large shortfalls are going to have to make cuts in areas like K-12 education, though it’s still not clear how big the revenue shortfalls or spending decreases are going to be on a state-by-state basis.

In a moderate recession, K-12 funding might be spared from cuts, he said. “But what we saw in the Great Recession, and this time, when you’re dealing with large budget shortfalls, states are likely to turn to K-12 to make spending cuts,” Sigritz said. 

He said most states are projecting “strained budgets” through fiscal 2022. By fiscal 2023, things could start to turn around, he said, pointing out that state coffers rebound from a recession at a slower pace than the national economy.

“Even if states start to see growth, we’re not expecting to see things quickly get back to where they were,” he said.

For now, Sigritz expects states legislatures to continue to slash spending, dip into so-called rainy day funds, and even possibly increase taxes in some cases to make up for shortfalls.

The speed at which state coffers rebound will depend on several things, he said, including whether Congress passes another COVID-19 stimulus package, which would lessen the need for spending cuts, and whether the country gets ravaged by a second wave of coronavirus during the fall and winter.

“If there is additional federal aid, if the economy does recover more quickly, it might lessen the need for these sorts of cuts by the states,” Sigritz said. “Lessen. Not eliminate.”

 — State coffers were fairly stable until the coronavirus: 

“For the vast majority of states, only the last quarter of fiscal 2020 revenue collections were impacted by the economic fallout of COVID-19. Coming into this crisis, most states were seeing revenues coming in at or ahead of projections. This provided some immediate cushion for states to soften the blow of the precipitous declines experienced in the fourth quarter.” 

Budget shortfalls expected to grow:

“Even some states that ended fiscal 2020 with general fund revenues up slightly year-over-year had to make budget cuts or turn to reserves, since they still fell short of projected tax collections. Deeper cuts will be necessary in fiscal 2021 and 2022 as budget gaps grow wider due to an expected continued decline in revenues and rising expenditure pressures from the public health crisis, economic downturn, inflation and population growth.”

More state spending cuts in the works:

“Numerous states that enacted budgets for fiscal 2021 based on pre-COVID revenue forecasts have called special sessions to revise those budgets, eliminating pay increases and making cuts to baseline spending and personnel. Meanwhile, states that passed budgets after the onset of the COVID-19 crisis similarly cancelled planned investments, implemented furloughs and other actions, and cut base spending. Many governors and their administrations have directed agencies to develop contingency plans to reduce their budgets, for fiscal year 2021 and/or fiscal year 2022, by as much as 15 or 20 percent.”

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