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Walton Foundation Executive Leaves to Launch New K-12 Investment Fund

The Walton Family Foundation’s K-12 education program director is resigning from his role to start an independent K-12-focused investment fund.

With the assistance of a $200 million contribution from the Walton family, Marc Sternberg today is launching A-Street Ventures, an investment fund that will seed and scale innovative K-12 student learning and achievement solutions for students, families, and schools, according to a letter Sternberg wrote announcing his departure and the initiation of the fund.

“As the future of work shifts toward artificial intelligence, automation, and outsourcing to foreign countries, the financial security of, and accessibility to, America’s middle class has never been more in doubt,” the letter says. “In this new world, opportunity and stability will belong to young people who can adapt, think critically, continue learning new skills, thrive in collaborative environments, and lead teams.”

MB_Marc_Sternberg-130
Marc Sternberg

The announcement comes as the education space has seen a recent surge of venture capital investment. Investors put more than $16 billion into ed tech in 2020, roughly double the amount that VCs put forward in 2018, according to a report by HolonIQ.

A-Street, which will be based in Bentonville, Ark., plans to invest in a mix of early-, growth- and late-stage ventures. At the outset, it will focus on digital-first instructional materials and “new paradigms” for student assessment, the letter says.

In terms of assessment platforms, the firm will direct its attention toward curriculum-embedded products that can be used for both summative and formative purposes, to shape instruction and support students and their families, Sternberg told EdWeek Market Brief in an interview.

In addition to its focus on assessments, A-Street will attempt to distinguish itself from other investment funds by focusing on uplifting the teaching profession and supporting high-quality, digital-forward content, he said.

In contrast with most education investment funds, which have a seven- or 10-year outlook, A-Street will look to bolster target companies for at least 15 years before exiting, he said.

The fund plans to primarily focus on companies operating in the U.S. K-12 market, but may also invest outside the K-12 sphere when potential breakthroughs could benefit primary or secondary schools, Sternberg’s letter says.

A-Street will redirect profits toward charitable causes or future investment, though the firm intends to operate with “all the rigor and ambition of a traditional closed-end investment fund,” according to Sternberg.

The fund will be financed solely by the Walton family, he said during the interview. Instead of going back to the investors, funds will be recycled into the current fund and for future accounts. The new firm has not yet communicated with any education companies about investment possibilities, he said.

Sternberg previously worked as the senior deputy chancellor at the New York City Department of Education, after serving as a principal and teacher. He will continue as a senior adviser for the Walton Family Foundation, he said in his letter.

“To the entrepreneurs and the idea-makers: we look forward to supporting your vision,” Sternberg wrote. “Now is the moment for your big thinking, new approaches, and finding common ground that advances progress.”


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Learning Loss During COVID Will Fuel Economic Losses, Business Leaders Predict

The impact of learning loss during the pandemic won’t just be felt in the classroom. It could also saddle the future economy.

That was the core argument put forward recently by a group of eight business leaders from North Carolina, who made a public plea for state policymakers to address students’ academic slippage during COVID.

Among their recommendations, laid out at a recent online event, were for state policymakers to set up a recurring funding stream to train all of the state’s educators, and to move from a “student tutoring model” for literacy education to a model that supports educators based on the “science of reading.”

Reading proficiency among North Carolina 3rd graders slightly worsened during the pandemic.

According to a report last month by the (Raleigh) News & Observer, accounting for 67.7 percent of 3rd-grade students who had taken midyear assessments, 75.4 percent of 3rd graders were not reading at a proficient level, compared to 73.6 percent last school year.

“Let’s be clear: This is not just a North Carolina problem,” said Kelly King, chairman and CEO of Charlotte, N.C.-based Truist Financial Corp., a consumer and commercial bank holding company. “This is a national problem.”

The impact of learning loss does not appear to be hitting all U.S. school communities equally. A report released by McKinsey & Company in December found that there was a 10 percent drop in average K-5 reading levels among majority-white schools during COVID, but a 23 percent drop in average K-5 reading levels among minority-majority schools.

Another participant in the North Carolina event, Honeywell Chairman and CEO Darius Adamczyk, noted that COVID has likely accelerated the need for higher educational attainment, a demand that is unlikely to abate. Honeywell, headquartered in North Carolina, is a conglomerate with a heavy focus in aerospace and building technologies, among other industries.

Investing in early reading proficiency is integral to weathering a changing economy, and for students to gain education and skills to meet the needs of businesses, Adamczyk said.

“The recommendations we’re making today will address inequities in our workforce and help us develop a strong, diverse, and resilient talent pipeline well into the future,” he said.

In addition to recommending recurring state investments in teacher training in reading, the leaders called for North Carolina policymakers to maintain and even expand funding for pre-K access in the state and to eventually accomplish the goal of enrolling 75 percent of the state’s pre-K-eligible children, and to ensure that every county hits that benchmark.

The state currently funds pre-K programs at about $154 million per year.

Fred Whitfield, president and vice chairman of Hornets Sports & Entertainment, noted that about 9,100 fewer children enrolled in North Carolina pre-K for the 2020-2021 school year compared with the previous school year, eliminating all of the enrollment gains made in the state over the last four years.

Before COVID, enrollment in the state’s pre-K had topped 31,000 children — about 50 percent of the children eligible for the program statewide, he said. Now, pre-K programs in the state are serving only 36 percent of eligible children.

A Big Focus on Pre-K

“The drop in enrollment should not be viewed as a decrease in demand or need for North Carolina pre-K,” Whitfield said. “To the contrary, although we have much to overcome, this proven high-quality program, targeted at some of our most at-risk children, is needed now, more than ever.”

In addition to calling for more support for pre-K, the business leaders are asking state officials to inflation-adjust North Carolina’s pre-K funding for the first time in nine years, to require an annual such inflation adjustment, and to modify county-state cost sharing percentages to help economically disadvantaged counties cover program costs, Whitfield said.

During their presentation, the business leaders cited a 2016 CEO action plan to support improved U.S. literacy rates put forward by Business Roundtable, an association of CEOs at leading U.S. companies.

North Carolina business leaders were inspired by the action plan to initiate several pro-education initiatives, including creation of a comprehensive aligned education system for grades pre-K-3, as well as launching a data methodology to ensure that children stay on track to achieve reading proficiency, said Dale Jenkins, CEO of Raleigh, N.C.-based medical malpractice insurance provider Curi.

A “robust data system” is scheduled to roll out later this year, Jenkins said.

In 2017, the North Carolina General Assembly formed the Birth through Third Grade, or B-3, Interagency Council, which is a joint council between the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.

The goal of the effort was to create a vision for a birth through 3rd-grade system of early education, and a system of accountability tied to it, including standards and assessment, data-driven improvement and outcomes, and teacher and administrator preparation and effectiveness.

“We’ve made progress on these goals through the B-3 Interagency Council that was created in 2017 to address these issues among others,” Jenkins said. “We applaud the General Assembly and the governor for moving this forward together.”

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How School Districts Will Spend Money From the New Federal Stimulus

How will K-12 districts spend federal stimulus funding?

School systems are expected to have broad latitude to spend money from the American Rescue Plan on classroom and non-academic needs.

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Bipartisan Legislation Would Allow E-Rate Funding for School Bus Wi-Fi

Ben Ray Lujan

A bill recently introduced in the U.S. Congress would make make E-Rate money available to support Wi-Fi on school buses, the latest of several recent recent efforts to expand student internet connectivity outside school hours.

Sens. Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., have introduced the legislation, which would require the Federal Communications Commission to issue regulations to make Wi-Fi access on school buses eligible for support under the E-Rate program no later than 180 days after enactment. Under the bill, schools would be reimbursed for equipping buses with Wi-Fi.

The E-Rate program is funded at $4 billion annually, and allows schools to receive reimbursement for certain internet services provided on campus.

If policymakers provide more financial support for off-campus wireless services, it could increase the ability of students to make use of companies’ ed-tech tools, apps, and platforms, including on long bus rides where students have access to laptops and other devices, if this bill gets enacted.

The bill is aimed, in part, at promoting digital equity for rural and tribal communities in states like New Mexico, according to Lujan’s office.

Approximately one-quarter of New Mexico’s over 350,000 students don’t have affordable internet, according to a statement by the New Mexico Homework Gap Team, which describes itself as an ad hoc group of professionals who support narrowing the digital divide for K-12 students in the state.

A December study by the Alliance for Excellent Education estimated that almost 17 million students nationwide lack home internet access to complete school assignments.

“For rural and tribal students who travel hours to and from school, these commutes can be valuable time accessing the internet, completing assignments, and conducting research,” Lujan said in a statement. “Empowering our schools to equip buses with Wi-Fi is an opportunity to uplift our students, tackle the homework gap, and help alleviate the financial strain that too many families are experiencing at home.”

If passed, the legislation would give schools more flexibility in terms of figuring out how they can best use ed tech to promote equity, said Amina Fazlullah, equity policy director for Common Sense Media, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting safe and effective technology use for children.

“Every community has different layers of barriers to equitable access to education related to technology,” she said in an interview. “Having that flexibility ultimately in the E-Rate program will be incredibly useful for schools where students have long commutes.”

But Fazlullah suggested that the ed-tech funding expansion outlined in the Lujan-Graham bill shouldn’t substitute for other potential federal initiatives to support costs for students’ home connectivity.

It remains to be seen whether the FCC will act decisively on some lawmakers’ and education advocates’ calls for a long-term, dedicated funding source to support students’ home connectivity.

The COVID-19 stimulus package approved earlier this month allocated $7 billion to the FCC for the creation of what is being called the “Emergency Connectivity Fund,” separate from E-Rate, to pay for high-speed internet and devices used off campus.

The commission also recently announced plans for a policy that, among many other things, would allow school districts to apply for reimbursement for costs they have paid for students and teachers to access broadband at home.

FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, in an interview with Education Week this month, said the agency remains in the “process of evaluating how we can update the current E-Rate program to meet the moment students and families find themselves in.” She spoke after the agency in February issued a request for public comments on whether E-Rate funds could be used to support remote learning during the pandemic.

In 2018, then a U.S. congressman, Lujan became familiar with how Wi-Fi operates on a school bus when he attended a “Rolling Study Halls” event. Hosted by Santa Fe Schools and funded by Google, the event took a Wi Fi-equipped bus to a Native American pueblo in New Mexico, Tom Ryan, chief information and strategy officer for the district, noted in an email.

In addition to Santa Fe, the Albuquerque district is one other school system that has outfitted school buses with mobile Wi-Fi units, installing hot spots on 80 buses across the area as of October.

Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., has introduced legislation similar to the Lujan-Graham bill in the House.

The legislation has picked up endorsements from the National Education Association, Competitive Carriers Association, Free Press, Public Knowledge, School Superintendents Association, Association of Educational Service Agencies, Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents, National Rural Education Association, National Rural Education Advocacy Consortium, and the State Educational Technology Directors Association.

Photo: Sen. Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M., is pictured on June 29, 2018, visiting the Kewa Pueblo, a Native American settlement southwest of Santa Fe, N.M.  The program was called “Rolling Study Halls” which was funded by Google.


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COVID 19 Slows the Tide of K-12 RFPs, But Rebound Expected in 2021 and 2022

The number of published solicitations in K-12 declined sharply in 2020 — dropping to the lowest in almost a decade — but the education sector is poised to return to pre-pandemic levels for RFPs faster than many other government markets that buy products and services, according to GovWin from Deltek. 

Last year’s dip in solicitations was due primarily to a tectonic shift in school district spending and purchasing priorities as a result of COVID-19 and the mass move to remote learning.

Districts typically rely on RFPs and bids as part of the procurement process, but in many cases last year did not want to wait through the long process involved with those traditional purchasing vehicles. School systems also relied on sole-source (non-competitive) procurements or turned to cooperatives last year to purchase goods and services quickly, according to GovWin from Deltek, which tracks published solicitations. 

The company estimates that K-12 RFPs and bids fell off by 18.5 percent during 2020 compared to the same period a year earlier, according to its recent “State and Local Procurement Snapshot – Q4 2020” report

Source: GovWin's market intelligence database, including state, local, and educational contracting activity.
Source: GovWin’s market intelligence database, including state, local, and educational contracting activity.

The report, which analyzed RFPs and bids from all public school districts with an enrollment of more than 500 students, says that K-12 solicitation volume is expected to grow by 13 percent this year and then almost another 5 percent in 2022 as spending and purchasing conditions normalize further. 

“Education overall is one of the markets that’s going to rebound most effectively through the next two years,” said Morgan Parkin, a research analyst for GovWin at Deltek. 

That rebound, said Parkin, has already started, fueled in part by several rounds of federal emergency dollars. 

She is forecasting that soft demand in a broad swath of K-12 spending categories should begin to reverse, and vendors could “start to notice those changes as early as now.” At the same time, solicitations for some “high priority purchases” have remained strong in recent months, according to the report. 

Two big areas Parkin said she’s noticing an uptick  for published solicitations is STEM curriculum and career-technical education programs. 

She also expects to see an increase in school districts issuing bids for assessment programs. Moving forward, districts could be issuing solicitations for a broader mix of assessment tools “coming from all types of vendors, large and small,” to better understand achievement gaps caused by the pandemic,” according to the report. 

“A major contract might get split up into smaller ones so more vendors can get in on it,” Parkin said, noting that districts might be less willing to sign with a big assessment provider for multiple years. “There’s going to be more work in assessments, but it will look a little different going in 2021 and 2022.”  

Demand should also stay steady for digital textbooks, small-scale remote learning tools, and computer equipment — all tools needed in case of another move back to distance learning. 

Rising Interest in PD, and Consulting

The report notes that vendors should “continue to watch for opportunities across all aspects of education, as this market involves a vast amount of services, supplies, systems, software, construction and maintenance. “ Districts not only have more money at their disposal now than at some points in 2020, as a result of a new federal stimulus, but more time and increased flexibility in how they use those funds. 

“Spending has returned already at the start of 2021,” Parkin said. 

Bids and RFPs issued by independent school districts rose from about 45,000 in 2014 up to 53,864 in 2019, for a compounded annual growth rate of 3.6 percent.

In 2020, the total was 43,903, which was the lowest since 2012, according to data from GovWin from Deltek. 

GovWin from Deltek provides business customers with market intelligence and leads on federal, state, local, and education government contracting. A recent analysis by the organization of contracting in the K-12 and higher education markets can be found here. (EdWeek Market Brief partners with GovWin from Deltek’s searches as a source for Purchasing Alerts, our twice-weekly breakdowns of education-focused RFPs from around the country.)

Through 2020, schools showed a strong interest in procuring supplies and safety products. But as the year progressed, so did district needs, as more schools issued bids for COVID testing services and there was a stronger focus on consulting and professional development, according to GovWin from Deltek.

Parkin said she expects the trend from 2020 of districts using cooperative purchasing to continue, but that school systems will likely rely on sole-source procurements with less frequency since they have more money and are no longer facing do-or-die timelines for purchases. 

Also, Parkin anticipates that a trend in districts making more contract opportunities available to minority and women-owned businesses will continue. 

And she has a message for vendors: Virtual sales pitches and demonstrations are still in demand, based on RFPs in 2021 that Parkin has analyzed, even as the pandemic subsides.

“Schools will be more willing to entertain the option of a virtual presentation,” she said. “I’ve seen more bids and RFPs that list it as an option, so that won’t be gone completely even as the world returns to normal in terms of spending.” 

Image by Getty


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Where Venture Capitalists Are Investing as Districts Shift to In-Person Education

Investors are putting a premium on companies that have the products and expertise to span distance learning and a return to in-person lessons.

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Global Spending on Virtual Reality, AI in Education Poised to Skyrocket, Report Says

Global spending on artificial and virtual reality in education is expected to soar from $1.8 billion to $12.6 billion annually over the next four years, a new analysis projects.

Spending on artificial intelligence in education, meanwhile, will jump from $800 million to $6.1 billion yearly over that same period, according to the report released recently by HolonIQ, a global research and intelligence firm.

The report made several projections for global ed-tech expenditures in K-12, higher education, and corporate training through 2025. Those include forecasts of total education spending, upskilling, spending on digital technologies as a proportion of total education spending, and venture capital investment.

“AR/VR is coming down the stack from workforce into higher ed, and is slowly making its way into K-12,” Patrick Brothers, the co-CEO and co-founder of HolonIQ, said in an interview.

Augmented and virtual reality has seen only modest uptake yet in K-12 because there’s a big learning curve for students and teachers to become familiar with the technologies, and because their use will take some time to catch on, he said.

Other areas of advanced technology figure to see significant growth in expenditures through 2025, include robotics and blockchain, according to the report. It projects that the total spent on robotics will rise from $1.3 billion in 2018 to $3.1 billion in 2025, and that the total spent on blockchain will rise from $100 million in 2018 to $600 million in 2025.

HolonIQ
HolonIQ

The biggest driver for the use of blockchain in education is a desire for secure and scalable credentialing, while the biggest spark behind the use of robotics in education is schools looking for different ways to engage learners in STEM fields, Brothers said.

HolonIQ forecasts overall global spending on ed-tech to rise from $227 billion in 2020 to $404 billion in 2025.

Currently, spending on digital technologies makes up just 3.6 percent of total expenditures in the areas of K-12, higher ed, and corporate training. In 2025, that percentage is expected to rise to a higher but still small level of 5.2 percent of overall spending.

“While the longer term impact of COVID-19 on education models is yet to play out, over the next few years we expect an upswing of spending on digital infrastructure in education and greater spending over the long term in new digital models,” the report states.

HolonIQ defines spending in the report as governments, companies, and consumers devoting money to a learning product or service. That distinguishes it from education investments, which are characterized by the supplying of capital in exchange for a stake in a company, Brothers said.

The report also notes that global ed-tech venture capital funding has risen from its previous record of $8.2 billion in 2018 to $16.1 billion in 2020, with Chinese companies occupying the largest share of funding compared with other countries.

Investment in educationwill continue to grow, but is not evenly spread across the globe and weighted heavily towards late-stage mega-rounds,” the report says.

Chinese ed-tech companies saw $26.8 billion in venture capital investment between 2010 and 2020, while U.S. companies saw $13 billion invested in the same period.

Overall, HolonIQ projects that total global education spending will rise from an estimated total of $5.4 trillion in 2020 to a total of $7.3 trillion in 2025, noting that education composes over 6 percent of global GDP.

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What’s Next for School Budgets? Districts Lay Out Their Priorities

Last summer, as California’s economy was hammered by COVID-19 and Gov. Gavin Newsom floated the prospect of deep cuts to K-12 funding, schools across the nation’s most populous state started preparing for the grimmest scenarios.

In the Wasco Union Elementary School District, about two hours north of Los Angeles, that meant putting together initial budget…

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States’ Education Budget Proposals for Next Year Not as Bleak as Many Predicted

FILE - In this Jan. 8, 2021 file photo, California Gov. Gavin Newsom outlines his 2021-2022 state budget proposal during a news conference in Sacramento, Calif. Newsom sent president-elect Joe Biden a letter on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021, outlining shared priorities and areas where the state can work together with the new Democratic administration. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, Pool, File)

Governors in several states are proposing increases in funding for education next year, buoyed by confidence that state revenues will improve from the deep recession caused by the pandemic.

As of this week, governors in 28 states had released budget blueprints for fiscal year 2022, which in states typically begins in July. It is up to state legislatures to approve budgets before they can become law.

Some states enact funding on a per-year basis, while others approve spending for two-year periods.

The funding picture for next fiscal may not be as dire as some had predicted, with several states proposing education funding increases, despite worries about falling tax revenues after deep economic shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic started being felt sharply in March.

“The additional federal aid to states that’s included in that last coronavirus relief bill will be helpful,” said Brian Sigritz, the director of state fiscal studies for the National Association of State Budget Officers, told EdWeek Market Brief.  That legislation, signed into law last month by former President Donald Trump, provided $54 billion in dedicated aid to K-12 schools.

The money will ease the burden on states “as they start to consider governors’ budget requests for overall and for K-12, specifically,” Sigritz said.

Here are a few highlights of how governors’ spending proposals address education.

California: In the country’s largest K-12 public school system, Gov. Gavin Newsom is proposing a one-time $2 billion allocation to “augment” resources for schools to offer in-person instruction safely, according to the proposal.

The money may be used for purchasing personal protective equipment, expanding COVID-19 testing, improving ventilation and safety of indoor and outdoor learning spaces, teacher salaries, and social and mental health services, according to the budget.

In total, the government is proposing $85.8 billion for K-12 schools and community colleges over two years, a $14.9 billion increase and the highest level of funding for schools and community colleges ever in the state.

Newsom’s proposal predicts that increased revenues will come to the state as a result of a less severe economic downturn than anticipated, relatively low income losses among high-wage segments of the population, and a stronger stock market than expected.

Arizona: Gov. Doug Ducey’s budget says the state’s education funding formula will decrease by $389 million, but proposes fully compensating for that using coronavirus relief money.

The state is projecting the decrease largely because of lower-than-expected attendance in the beginning of the school year. The governor’s office is proposing to allocate what will amount to a total of $1.9 billion in stimulus grants toward K-12 public and charter schools

Ducey proposes increasing spending on expanded early literacy, intervention programs, professional development, social-emotional learning, expanding the pipeline of teachers in low-income schools, statewide assessments.

The Republican is also calling for $40 million in additional money to expand broadband in rural communities and help bridge the digital divide.

Maryland: Gov. Larry Hogan is proposing $7.5 billion for K-12 schools, about $213 million more than required by state funding formulas.

The state’s funding formula was set to reduce aid for fiscal year 2022 because of declining enrollment. But the governor’s office is holding local jurisdictions harmless for the decline. Specifically, Hogan is proposing $151.6 million for targeted tutoring grants in every local jurisdiction, $65.5 million for special education grants, $54.7 million for the expansion of early childhood initiatives, $53.7 million for pre-K supplemental grants, and $4.5 million for out-of-school programs.

South Carolina: Gov. Henry McMaster is proposing $35.2 million to maintain state aid to K-12 classrooms at the current level, and another $100 million in supplemental funding for instructional materials, as the state looks to replace all Common Core textbooks.

Notably, McMaster is calling the state’s general assembly to fund charter schools through a dedicated, recurring funding source. Such schools are currently funded through annual supplemental appropriations. McMaster has been a strong proponent of charter schools. Other proposed major investment areas include teacher training, placing nurses in schools, computer science and coding instruction, and school mental health counselors.

New York: In one of the nation’s largest K-12 markets, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is proposing an $848.8 million increase in formula-based school aid over its fiscal year 2021 funding amount of $25.9 billion.

But the state is proposing a $393 million reduction in a $3.7 billion aid package that includes funding for state boards of cooperative educational services, which procure educational materials for school districts. For at least next fiscal year, that reduction would be fully offset by federal coronavirus relief funds. The budget highlights afterschool programs, early college high schools, and smart schools innovation as major proposed investments.

State revenue forecasts have somewhat improved since last spring, when many states projected very significant declines at the outset of the pandemic, Sigritz said.

Though improved budget conditions will help states avert severe spending reductions, policymakers may be forced to defer certain costs, such as increasing teacher pay and planning increases in state funding formulas, he said.

“In most instances, states are still projecting less revenue than what they were before the outbreak of COVID-19,” he said. “It’s just that for many states, the revenue declines aren’t as sharp as what they were originally anticipating.”

If state budgets rebound significantly, it would represent a major turnaround from much of last year. Data released last fall by NASBO showed for the first time in roughly a decade — since the last recession —  the majority of states closed their fiscal year 2020 books with a decline in general revenue funds.

Forty-six states begin their fiscal year on July 1, with Alabama and Michigan starting theirs on Oct. 1, Texas starting its fiscal year on Sept. 1, and New York starting its fiscal year on April 1.

Photo: California Gov. Gavin Newsom outlines his 2021-2022 state budget proposal  this month during a news conference in Sacramento, Calif.  (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, Pool, File)


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

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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