Impending Impact goes Little Noticed at NECC

It’s morning, and I’ve finally gotten around to reading yesterday’s USA Today (compliments of Holiday Inn Express). I’m intrigued by the story of a human built space craft crashing into a comet.

On Monday at 1:52 a.m. ET, a probe deployed by a NASA spacecraft 83 million miles from home will smash at 23,000 mph into an ancient comet the size of Manhattan, blasting a hole perhaps 14 stories deep.

Launched in January, NASA’s $333 million Deep Impact mission is designed to answer questions that scientists have long had about comets, the ominous icebergs of space.1

Cool stuff!

It also intrigues me that it’s just another story. I’m old enough (here he goes again) that I remember, not only when Neil Armstrong step onto the moon, but also when Alan Shepherd was launched into space. I remember Sputnik, and I remember how the world held its breath for just a moment with each one of these events. Now, we are exploring the Solar System, and beyond, and it’s like it is happening in the next town over, and deserves little more attention.

OK, we’re here at the National Educational Computing Conference, where tech-saavy, forward-looking educators from across the country and around the world are talking about the future of education. Yet, the only place I’ve heard tell of this extraterrestrial event is in the newspaper outside my hotel room door.

OK, we’re busy worrying about more important things, like the fact that the U.S. federal government is willing to pay more to build that small space craft than it is willing to spend on contemporary technologies for its children’s classrooms, a budget that president bush proposes be slashed to $0.

As budget talks continue on Capitol Hill, advocates of educational technology are praising a spending plan approved by the House Appropriations Committee on June 16, which would restore more than $300 million in funding for the Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) block-grant program and provide additional spending for a handful of other initiatives President Bush had asked Congress to cut in 2006.2

Yes! We have more important things to worry about!

1 Vergano, Dan. “Science meets a comet head-on.” USA Today 29 Jun 2005. 30 Jun 2005 <>

2 Murray, Corey. “House would restore $300M for ed tech.” eSchool News 17 Jun 2005 . 30 Jun 2005 <>

12 thoughts on “Impending Impact goes Little Noticed at NECC”

  1. The President has increased funding for education more than any previous President (both in absolute terms and percentage) and he’s not willing to support contemporary technologies? Maybe it is the superintendents and school boards who need the convincing that they need to spend more of their federal funds on technology.

  2. PJ, what you say is true, and you probably know more about the politics of how the funding plays out at the school/district/state level than I do. Still, it is also true that in most states they have less money to work with and much more government regluation on how they can spend it, in terms of instructional expectations. This funding shortfall is largely due to the near devastating pull back of federal moneys from state and local governments in the first years of president bush’s administration.

    You are also right were local governments should be picking up the leadership. But I don’t know how state and local politicians think they’re going to get elected by increasing taxes, when the mantra from the republicans has become shrink government, give back the taxes.

    Well, I’m not going to say much more here. The bottom line is that our schools are not where they should be, and IT IS A NATIONAL PROBLEM. …and fixin’ it ain’t gonna come cheat. …and it’s going to take strong and visionary leaderhip from a post smokestack-America perspective.

    Blah blah blah, thanks for your note, PJ, and for continuing the conversation.

  3. This funding shortfall is largely due to the near devastating pull back of federal moneys from state and local governments in the first years of president bush’s administration.

    Can you point to any evidence to back up such a claim? Most of the discussion I’ve read (outside of the normal partisan echo chambers) indicates that the funding short falls were tied to structual imbalances that grew out of the tech bubble in the 1990s.

    USA Today ran a story about this back in 2003:
    Spending growth during the boom years haunts some states today. State spending was 38% higher in 2002 than in 1997 — $983 billion vs. $710 billion. That was 18 percentage points higher than inflation and population growth combined during the period. This shows that policy decisions — not just higher costs and more people — drove spending to record levels. … Three types of spending fueled the expansion in state budgets: education, health care for the poor and property tax relief in which states reimbursed local governments for lost revenue.

    The surplus surprised everyone – including state governments – because it was mainly fed by capital gains tax revenue. Once the invesment boom went bust, government coffers faced declining revenue from capital gains taxes. The problem is that state governments had made permanent increases in their budgets that couldn’t adjust to the declining revenue base. The nonpartisan CBO backed this theory in 1998 when they said, “Volatile sources of income, such as those associated with the recent remarkable gains in the stock market, are probably responsible for much of the recent rapid growth” in tax revenue.”

    The CATO institute wrote about this in a 1999 piece entitled “The State Spending Spress of the 1990s”: “Unless states begin to cap expenditure growth and cut taxes to reduce the revenue intake of state governments, they may be faced at the end of this expansion with the same massive deficits that created tidal waves of red ink when the 1980s boom ended. … By virtually every measure, state budgets have expanded faster in the 1990s than they did in the fiscally reckless 1980s. Moreover, since 1994 state budgets have grown 50 percent faster than the federal budget.”

    Even if you discard the Cato analysis given its partisan leanings, the CBO analysis should stand on its own.

    Your statement also seems to have missed that the 2003 Jobs and Growth tax package passed by Congress included $20 billion for state fiscal relief to help alleviate the impact of the recession on State budgets. (Title IV – you can read a summary of the legislation here: and a Conference of Mayors press release praising the provision:

    IT IS A NATIONAL PROBLEM. …and fixin’ it ain’t gonna come cheat. …
    I completely agree. Which is why I am so puzzled why you would criticize a President who has provided more funding for education than any President since LBJ. He may not have provided the increases where you would like them (ie: EETT). But a 52% increase in Title I and a 75% increase in special ed – both of which are incredibly flexible sources of funding that could be used for technology – shows that he is at least making education a priority.

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