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Cybersecurity Is the Top Priority for Ed-Tech Officials. Funding Doesn’t Match the Demand

Keeping school networks safe from hackers—whether that’s a band of sophisticated criminals working overseas or a student who stole their teacher’s password—is the top priority for state education technology officials, according to a recent report released by the State Educational Technology Directors Association.

What’s more, it’s clear that existing resources aren’t enough to alleviate the problem, given that districts as large as Los Angeles Unified—the nation’s second largest—have been victims of cyberattacks.

Nineteen percent of state education technology officials said their states provide “ample funding” to head off cybersecurity risks, according to the survey of 104 education technology officials in 45 states, Guam, and the U.S. Department of Defense, which operates schools for some students from military families. That’s up from 8 percent, according to a similar report released last year.

But nearly half of this year’s respondents—42 percent—said their state provides a “small amount” or “very little” funding to address cybersecurity needs, according to the survey, which was conducted in May and June by Whiteboard Advisors on behalf of SETDA.

“Improving K-12 cybersecurity posture has become an issue of resources and equity,” said Brad Hagg, director of education technology at the Indiana Department of Education in a statement featured in the SETDA report. “Under-staffed districts and communities without access to a pipeline of cyber specialists will struggle to meet the requirements, often dictated by insurance companies, as well as the best practices necessary to implement a strong cybersecurity threat mitigation program.”

Jessica Rosenworcel, the chair of the Federal Communications Commission, has proposed a pilot program to provide up to $200 million in competitive grants over three years to help schools and libraries guard against cyber threats. But her pitch is running into resistance from Republicans on Capitol Hill.

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