Few State Officials Believe Their Cybersecurity Funding Is Keeping Up With Threats

Staff Writer

Many states and districts have fallen victim to cybersecurity threats or attacks, but few state officials feel their government is responding appropriately, a new survey finds.

According to the newly released 2022 State EdTech Trends report, 70 percent of the 80 state officials surveyed say that either their state education agency or at least one school district was targeted by a cyberattack or threat in the last year.

But only 6 percent of respondents say their state is providing ample funding for cybersecurity.

The report, released by nonprofit State Educational Technology Directors Association in collaboration with Whiteboard Advisors, aims to track how state education agencies are adapting when it comes to technology and education post-pandemic.

More than half of the survey respondents — which include SETDA members, state superintendents, and other senior state officials from all 50 states — say their state has existing statewide initiatives related to broadband (59 percent), cybersecurity (54 percent), and technology for instruction (53 percent).

But it also found that states don’t have consistent definitions or categorizations for ed tech. And many respondents report a disparity between their education priorities and the state’s investment in the ed tech that could support those priorities.

“It literally is 50 different states,” said SETDA Executive Director Julie Fallon, emphasizing the variation.

Less than half of respondents, 48 percent, say their state education agency has explicit conversations about the role of technology in supporting state priorities, according to the SETDA report.

And only 41 percent say that the people working on ed tech at the state level are regularly included in broader planning and strategic conversations around technology.

Coordination on Ed Tech Lacking

Part of the explanation is the wide variety in states’ approach to ed tech. Just over half of state education agencies, 55 percent, have a specific office that coordinates ed tech, and those that do have a variety of titles, leadership, and structure for those offices.

Most states have between two and five staff members working on ed tech programs, but the survey finds that just 27 percent of respondents say the person responsible for ed tech regularly meets with the state chief.

If expertise in technology isn’t baked into state agencies’ staffing, Fallon said progress can be interrupted by new leadership every four years, and those employees’ need to be educated on the state’s approach to improving technology and how it’s supporting state priorities.

“Defining the role of ed tech within SEAs will be particularly important as states continue to adapt to an increasingly digital, post-pandemic world,” the report said.

Looking forward, Fallon said state education technology directors will be thinking about how to sustain some of the investments their states made during the pandemic. One way they will do that is by looking to gather better evidence of products’ effectiveness.

The goal is to show that the funding will bring long-term benefits and was more than “just a one-time shot,” she said.

Other key takeaways from the report:

  • Fifty-seven percent of respondents say their states have a lot of ed tech programs and products, but they don’t always use them effectively.
  • Eight states collect at least some data on both the use and effectiveness of ed-tech tools. While 19 states collect no data on this.
  • A strong majority of respondents (74 percent) say their states’ top education priorities are educator recruitment and retention and addressing learning loss (72 percent).

Image by solarseven/iStock/Getty

Follow EdWeek Market Brief on Twitter @EdMarketBrief or connect with us on LinkedIn.

See also: