SETDA Honors Federal and State Policymakers

Annually, SETDA honors elected and appointed policymakers at both the state and federal levels who have championed access to and effective use of technology in K-12 education.

Federal Policymaker Honorees

Congressman Dave Loebsack 2016

Congressman Dave LoebsackCongressman Dave Loebsack was honored by SETDA for his leadership and advocacy for rural access to educational technology during the development of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). As a former member of the House Education and Workforce Committee, Loebsack worked to ensure his proposals were included in ESSA. Loebsack’s Schools of the Future Act, which provides resources to rural schools for improving their education technology programs, was included as an amendment that was passed on a bipartisan vote and paved the way for the creation of the Student Support and Academic Enrichment grant program. Congressman Loebsack is currently serving his fifth term in the United States House of Representatives. He represents Iowa’s Second Congressional District which encompasses much of Eastern and Southern Iowa. In 2015, he began serving on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over a wide range of issues, including energy policy, healthcare policy, trade policy, telecommunications and the internet, environment and air quality, and consumer affairs and protection. Previously, he served as a member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce and the House Armed Services Committee.

Remarks from Congressman Loebsack

Senator Tammy Baldwin (2015)

SETDA honored Senator Tammy Baldwin (WI) as its Federal Policymaker of the Year at the 2015 SETDA Leadership Summit: Learning in the Digital Age. Selected by the SETDA Board of Directors, the federal policymaker award is given annually to a federal leader who demonstrates an unwavering commitment to the future of education by supporting policy and funding for the effective use of technology for learning. Past winners have included U.S. Senators and Representatives and FCC Commissioners who have worked across the political aisle to do what is best for students.

In 2012, Ms. Baldwin joined the Senate and is the junior member from Wisconsin. She previously served in the U.S. Representative from from 1999 to 2013. Senator Baldwin is a strong supporter of educational technology programs that are so critical to the education of our nation’s school children. She introduced legislation to help educators transform learning systems by utilizing innovative technology. This legislation will have major impact on education and the states that our members represent. The Enhancing Education Through Technology Act supports our members as they set state policy to use technology to increase college and career readiness, help school districts build infrastructure, and increase student learning by making technology integral to the teaching and learning process.

Congressman Jared Polis (2014)

Polis_Official_120SETDA honored Congressman Jared Polis (CO) as its Federal Policymaker of the Year at the 2014 SETDA Leadership Summit: “Leading and Learning in the Digital Age.” Selected by the SETDA Board of Directors, the federal policymaker award is given annually to a federal leader who demonstrates an unwavering commitment to the future of education by supporting policy and funding for the effective use of technology for learning. Past winners have included U.S. Senators and Representatives and FCC Commissioners who have worked across the political aisle to do what is best for students.

Recently re-elected to his fourth term in the U.S. House of Representatives, Congressman Polis has served with distinction on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce where he has championed technology-enabled innovation in education. Among other accomplishments, he launched and co-chairs the Congressional E-Learning Caucus that seeks to educate members of Congress about the benefits of e-learning and about how to improve federal support for quality online educational opportunities. Along with a bi-partisan group of two dozen Representatives, he has called on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to improve and modernize the federal E-rate program, and most recently played a lead role in urging K-12 school service providers to safeguard student privacy by creating standards regarding the collection, maintenance, and use of student personal information.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel (2013)

jessica rosenworcelJessica Rosenworcel


Federal Communications Commission

Jessica Rosenworcel was nominated for a seat on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) by President Barack Obama and on May 7, 2012 was confirmed unanimously by the United States Senate. She was sworn into office on May 11, 2012.

Commissioner Rosenworcel brings a decade and a half of public sector and private sector communications law experience to her position at the FCC. This experience has shaped her belief that in the 21st century strong communications markets can foster economic growth and security, enhance digital age opportunity, and enrich our civic life.

Prior to joining the agency, Commissioner Rosenworcel served as Senior Communications Counsel for the United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, under the leadership of Senator John D. Rockefeller IV. She previously served in the same role on the Committee under the leadership of Senator Daniel K. Inouye. In this position, she was responsible for legislation, hearings, and policy development involving a wide range of communications issues, including spectrum auctions, public safety, broadband deployment and adoption, universal service, video programming, satellite television, local radio, and digital television transition.

U.S. Senator Olympia Snow, Maine (2012)

snowe-120Olympia Snowe

U.S. Senator


As a member of the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Snowe established the successful E-Rate program with Senator Jay Rockefeller (WV) in 1996 when only 14 percent of schools were connected to the Internet. Snowe and Rockefeller gained the inclusion of their E-Rate provision in the telecommunications reform bill by a single vote in the Senate Commerce Committee; successfully fought back an effort on the Senate floor to remove the provision from the bill; and defended the E-Rate program during the two and one-half year implementation process at the Federal Communications Commission while ensuring it was implemented in a manner consistent with the language of the law and intent of the authors. Her steadfast support for the program and the cause of educational technology in the midst of budget constraints at both the state and federal level since that time reflects her commitment to ensuring access to the Internet and technology for effective teaching and learning.

U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Washington (2011)

murry_120Patty Murray

U.S Senator


From the classroom to the Congress, Patty Murray has been an effective and tireless advocate for Washington’s working families. In the 1980’s, when a state politician told her she “couldn’t make a difference,” Murray led a grassroots coalition of 13,000 parents to save a local preschool program from budget cuts. She went on to serve on the local school board, and in 1988 was elected to the Washington State Senate. In 1992, Murray ran a grassroots campaign of family, friends, supporters, and public interest groups to beat a 10-year veteran of the U.S. House of Representatives and become the first woman to represent Washington State in the U.S. Senate. Senator Murray was re-elected in 1998, 2004, and 2010, and is currently Washington’s senior Senator. Senator Murray has been steadfast in her advocacy for federal investment in educational technology through the Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) program and was one of the co-sponsors of the recently introduced Achievement Through Technology and Innovation (ATTAIN) Reauthorization Act of 2011. An eloquent speaker on the topic, the Senator understands the promise and potential of technology in public education, and we are deeply appreciative of her moving video address to open the 2011 SETDA Emerging Technologies Forum.

Past Award Winners

U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman, New Mexico (2010)

U.S. Representative George Miller, California – 11th District (2009)

U.S. Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, West Virgina (2008)

U.S. Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard, California – 40th District (2007)

U.S. Senator Richard Burr, North Carolina (2007)

U.S. Senator Tom Harkin, Iowa (2006)

U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch, Utah (2005)

U.S. Senator Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania (2004)

State Policymaker Honorees

2017: Jillian Balow, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Wyoming


Jillian Balow is the Superintendent of Public Instruction in Wyoming. Since taking office in January, 2015, Superintendent Balow chaired the Distance Education Task Force which made recommendations that led to state legislation to remove many barriers to the facilitation of online courses in Wyoming school districts. She also established a K-20 common statewide learning management system which coordinates online course offerings for K-12 and post-secondary, as well as professional development opportunities from the Wyoming Department of Education and postsecondary institutions. In 2016, with Superintendent Balow’s leadership and support, Wyoming held its first ever Computer Science Education Week and signed the state Future Ready Pledge. She partnered with the Governor’s Office, Department of Enterprise Technology Services, State Library, Wyoming school districts, and National Governor’s Association for the Wyoming Classroom Connectivity Initiative which focused on increasing connectivity to school districts by utilizing federal E-rate funds and building WiFi capacity in schools to enhance student learning. Wyoming will host its first K-20 statewide digital learning conference in November 2017 where it will recognize innovative leaders throughout the state.

Dale Erquiaga, Office of the Governor, Nevada (2016)

screen-shot-2016-10-24-at-11-52-49-am2016: Dale Erquiaga, Office of the Governor, Nevada
Mr. Dale Erquiaga, served as the Chief Strategy Officer for Governor Brian Sandoval and the State of Nevada. With a focus on education and workforce development, his overall responsibilities included translating the Governor’s vision into strategic action for the New Nevada.  Prior to assuming this position, Dale served as the Superintendent of Public Instruction for the State of Nevada.  Dale was instrumental in getting legislation passed to fund Nevada’s state-run one-to-one program, Nevada Ready 21 (NR21).  As a member of the Nevada Commission on Educational Technology, Dale provided guidance and support to ensure the plan was approved by the Commission.  Once approved, Dale promoted the plan to Governor Sandoval leading to its inclusion in the Governor’s proposed budget for FY16-FY17, the first step in the legislative process.  During Nevada’s 120-day legislative session, Dale met with countless legislators to ensure NR21’s final passage. Throughout all of this, Dale communicated to stakeholders and policy makers the importance of students’ 21st century skills development and  the individualized learning tech brings to the classroom in addition to the economic progress brought to states that invest in classroom technology.  Nevadans are ready to turnaround a chronically under-performing educational system, and Dale provided the leadership we need to do just that.

David C. Hespe, New Jersey Commissioner of Education and Evo Popoff, Chief Innovation Officer/Assistant Commissioner at the State of New Jersey Department of Education, (2015)

In 2015, David C. Hespe, New Jersey Commissioner of Education and Evo Popoff, Chief Innovation Officer/Assistant Commissioner at the State of New Jersey Department of Education as co-recipients of the SETDA State Policy Makers of the Year Award. Hespe and Popoff were honored for their vision and leadership in support for the effective use of technology in New Jersey during the 2015 Leadership Summit: Learning in the Digital Age. Under their leadership, the New Jersey Department of Education has assisted 145 school districts, charter schools and private schools form a consortium to cooperatively purchase Internet services. It is anticipated that this technology initiative will generate savings of $89 million dollars for participating schools over the next three and a half years. Another initiative that will have a major positive impact on schools is the New Jersey Digital Readiness for Learning and Assessment Project (DRLAP). This project includes a free tool that districts will be able to use to track their readiness to implement digital learning. They will be able to evaluate progress over time, and future upgrades to the system will include automated recommendations for and access to research-based strategies to address identified learning gaps.

Past Award Winners

Tom Torlakson, California State Superintendent of Public Instruction (2012)

tt-120Tom Torlakson

State Superintendent of Public Instruction

California Department of Education

As chief of California’s public school system, Superintendent Torlakson applies his experience as a science teacher, high school coach, and state policymaker to fight for students and improve the state’s public education system. Torlakson’s journey has led him from the classrooms of Contra Costa County’s Mount Diablo Unified School District, to the Antioch City Council, Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors, and the California State Senate and State Assembly. As a state legislator, he sponsored and carried numerous bills for education including bills focused on health, safety, physical education, as well as educational technology. He carried California Senate Bill 1637 that created and supports a regional framework that provide technology technical assistance with funding for technology, technology plan development, and the integration of technology into teaching and learning. As superintendent, Torlakson brought together dozens of leaders from across California teachers, parents, community, labor and business leaders—to share their thinking about education in the state. The resulting report, A Blueprint for Great Schools, provides vision and direction, including a focus on 21st century learning. The technology portion of the Blueprint has been referred to as No Child Left Offline. Superintendent Torlakson also has been an advocate for modernizing the E-Rate to meet the growing needs of students and teachers as technology has become integral to teaching and learning across California and the nation.

Dr. Patricia Wright, Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction (2011)

wright-VA-120Dr. Patricia Wright

Superintendent of Public Instruction

Virginia Department of Education

During her more than 25 years with the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) and 35 total years in public education, Dr. Patricia I. Wright has worked closely with the Board of Education, governors, the General Assembly, local school systems and professional organizations to develop and implement Virginia’s standards-based accountability program and statewide system of support for public schools. Dr. Wright was appointed Virginia’s superintendent of public instruction by Governor Tim Kaine effective October 1, 2008, and was reappointed by Governor Bob McDonnell on April 16, 2010. During her tenure at the VDOE, Virginia has become an educational technology leader, committed to ensuring that all students and teachers in Virginia have the resources and tools they need to succeed in the 21st century. The Commonwealth has expanded and enriched its online learning opportunities, undertaken a number of initiatives to take advantage of interactive digital and open (OER) content and applications, moved the student assessment system online, built out a robust state data system, and demonstrated substantive leadership in helping schools keep students secure and safe while online.

Dr. June Atkinson, North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction (2010)

atkinson_NC_120Dr. June Atkinson

Superintendent of Public Instruction

North Carolina Department of Public Instruction

Dr. June Atkinson has served as the Superintendent of North Carolina’s Department of Public Instruction since August 2005. Dr. Atkinson heads an agency which she served for nearly 30 years as a chief consultant and director in the areas of business education, career and technical education, and instructional services. A former business education teacher, Dr. Atkinson has been involved in instruction and curriculum development throughout her career. She has received numerous awards and held many professional offices. Her most recent honor is the Women of Achievement Award from the General Federation of Women’s Club. She also taught high school in Roanoke, Virginia, and Charlotte, North Carolina. In Charlotte, Dr. Atkinson’s teaching assignments required that she work with business people to find meaningful employment for her students.

Past Winners

Judy Jeffrey, Director, Iowa Department of Education (2009)


Dr. Joseph Morton, Alabama State Superintendent of Education (2008)


Michael Flanagan, Michigan State Superintendent (2007)


Dr. Jorea Marple, Assistant State Superintendent, West Virgina Department of Education (2006)


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