Digital Education Provisions Tag Along in Senate Reauthorization Bill

The Senate's version of a revised Elementary and Secondary Education Act could help schools and libraries with digital learning.

by / July 17, 2015 0
Senators approved a number of amendments that affect digital education. Architect of the Capitol licensed under public domain via Wikimedia Commons

A number of digital education provisions made their way into a U.S. Senate bill designed to promote equal education opportunities for every student through federal grants and scholarships.

Senate Bill 1177 passed on Thursday, July 16, on a vote of 81-17 -- which is a big deal because now, both the Senate and the House of Representatives have approved different pieces of legislation that would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 under a new name. Senators and representatives will see if they can hammer out a compromise between the two bills in the coming weeks. 

Though senators submitted 178 amendments to S.B. 1177, only 65 of them made it into the final bill. The ones that did make it tackled a number of topics, including digital education issues.

Several amendments authorized studies on student access to digital learning resources outside of school and cybersecurity education. Another one dealt with support for school libraries that teach students digital literacy. Three bills address access to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) instruction. And another trio of bills handles student data privacy.

Of two digital equity bills that Sen. Angus S. King, Jr. (I-Maine) submitted, one was not proposed on the Senate floor, and the other passed unanimously. Amendment 2153 would have created a pilot funded by the federal government to help states and school districts figure out how to provide Internet access to students when they're not on campus. While that one didn't make it to debate, Amendment 2154 did pass and will authorize a national study on what's actually going on with student Internet access outside the classroom. 

"In general, we haven't seen that conversation happening in a lot of communities, so there's a lot of work we've got to do," said Keith Krueger, CEO of the Consortium for School Networking. "And the first step of having that conversation is having better data."

Senators also looked for better data on cybersecurity education — a hot topic in today's digital environment — and student data privacy, which a student privacy committee is tasked with studying.

And they didn't forget libraries. In fact, they passed Amendment 2085 98-0 to make sure education agencies helped develop effective school library programs that teach digital literacy and prepare students for life after K-12 education. 

Leslie Proddy, an Indiana librarian and president of the American Association of School Librarians, said this vote shows that policymakers are considering the ramifications of a society without digital literacy experts.

"Now we're acknowledging that being a digital native doesn't mean that you're digitally literate," Proddy said. While students may know how to use smart devices, that doesn't translate to an inate ability to analyze, interpret or develop new technology. That's why school librarians are so important.

On the STEM side of the equation, senators planned to achieve three different objectives with their amendments: Increase access to STEM education for under-represented students, improve student learning progress in STEM courses, and bring in retired or current STEM employees to help educate them.

The table below shows the 12 amendments that have digital education ties. 

2015

Senate Bill 1177 Digital Education Amendments

Digital equity at home

Amendment 2154, Sponsor: Sen. Angus S. King, Jr. (I-Maine), co-sponsor: Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.). Agreed to in the Senate by unanimous consent on July 15.
 

Purpose: To authorize the Institute of Education Sciences to conduct a study on student access to digital learning resources outside of the school day. 

Digital literacy and libraries

Amendment 2085, Sponsor: Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), co-sponsor: Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.). Agreed to in the Senate by yea-nay vote 98-0 on July 8.

 

Purpose: To amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 regarding school librarians and effective school library programs. 

Technology definitions and funding

Amendment 2256, Sponsor: Sen. Angus S. King, Jr. (I-Maine), co-sponsor: Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.). Agreed to in the Senate by voice vote on July 16.

 

Purpose: To amend the definitions of eligible technology and technology readiness survey and to provide a restriction on funds.

Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)

Amendment 2108, Sponsor: Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), co-sponsor: Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.). Agreed to in the Senate by unanimous consent on July 9.
 

Purpose: To amend the program under part E of title II to ensure increased access to science, technology, engineering and mathematics subject fields for underrepresented students, and for other purposes. 

  Amendment 2138, Sponsor: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), co-sponsor: Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.). Agreed to in the Senate by unanimous consent on July 9.
 

Purpose: To amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 relating to improving student academic achievement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

  Amendment 2215, Sponsor: Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), co-sponsor: Sen. Gary C. Peters (D-Mich.). Agreed to in the Senate by a voice vote on July 16.
 

Purpose: To include partnering with current and recently retired STEM professionals and tailoring educational resources to engage students and teachers in STEM. 

Cybersecurity

Amendment 2216, Sponsor: Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), agreed to in the Senate by unanimous consent on July 15.
 

Purpose: To require a report on cybersecurity education. 

Career and technical education

Amendment 2096, Sponsor: Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), co-sponsors: Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.). Agreed to in the Senate by voice vote on July 9.
 

Purpose: To add career and technical education as a core academic subject.

Student data privacy

Amendment 2080, Sponsor: Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), co-sponsor: Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.). Agreed to in the Senate by yea-nay vote 89-0.
 

Purpose: To establish a committee on student privacy policy. 

  Amendment 2201, Sponsor: Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.). Agreed to in the Senate by unanimous consent on July 15.
 

Purpose: To provide that state assessments not evaluate or assess personal or family beliefs and attitudes, or publicly disclose personally identifiable information. 

  Amendment 2249, Sponsor: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), co-sponsors: Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Sen. Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii). Agreed to in the Senate by voice vote on July 16.
 

Purpose: To amend section 1111(c) of the ESEA to require states to provide an assurance regarding cross-tabulation of student data. 

Shared services

Amendment 2141, Sponsor: Sen. Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.), co-sponsor: Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.). Agreed to in the Senate by unanimous consent on July 15.

 

Purpose: To provide for shared services strategies and models 

 

Tanya Roscorla Former Managing Editor

Tanya Roscorla covered ed tech from 2009-2017.