Senator Peters (D-MI) has represented Michigan in the Senate since 2015. He is the chairman of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee and serves as a member of the Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee.
Senator Peters introduced and recently secured passage of the K-12 Cybersecurity Act of 2021 (S.1917), which was signed by President Biden in October 2021. The new law directs the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency to examine the risks and challenges that schools face in securing their networks. The new law also charges CISA with creating cybersecurity recommendations and other voluntary resources for schools to use when implementing their cybersecurity solutions. Senator Peters is also a cosponsor of legislation to restore federal Net Neutrality requirements, and he strongly supported creation of the Emergency Connectivity Fund.
Senator Peters is a product of Michigan schools. After graduating from Rochester High School, he attended Alma College, where he earned a B.A. in Political Science. While working a full-time job, he went on to earn an M.B.A. in Finance from the University of Detroit Mercy, an M.A. in political science from Wayne State University, an M.A. in Philosophy from Michigan State University with a focus on the ethics of development and a law degree (J.D.) from Wayne State University Law School. He also earned a diploma from the College of Naval Command and Staff, U.S. Naval War College. Announcement Press Release
Congresswoman Grace Meng (2020)
2020: Congresswoman Grace Meng
U.S. Congresswoman Grace Meng is serving her fourth term in the United States House of Representatives. Grace represents the Sixth Congressional District of New York encompassing the New York City borough of Queens, including west, central and northeast Queens. Grace is the first and only Asian American Member of Congress from New York State and the first female Congress member from Queens since former Vice Presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro.
Grace is a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee and its Subcommittees on State and Foreign Operations, Homeland Security, and Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies. The Appropriations Committee is responsible for funding every federal agency, program, and project within the United States government. She also serves on the House Ethics Committee. Grace is also a Senior Whip and Regional Whip for New York, and a founder and Co-Chair of the Kids’ Safety Caucus, the first bipartisan coalition in the House that promotes child-safety issues. She helped create and serves as a founding member and former Co-Chair of the Quiet Skies Caucus which works to mitigate excessive aircraft noise that adversely affects communities.
Grace has passed several pieces of legislation in law. These include laws about religious freedom, making Queens historic sites part of the National Park Service, striking “Oriental” from federal law and protecting public housing residents from insufficient heat. Also signed into law were her measures to assist veterans and members of the military, and provisions to improve consumer protections and safeguards for children. In addition, Grace has fought to expand opportunities for communities of color, young people and women, and she secured resources to help local small-businesses.
Born in Elmhurst, Queens, and raised in the Bayside and Flushing sections of the borough, Grace attended local schools, and graduated from Stuyvesant High School and the University of Michigan. She then earned a law degree from Yeshiva University’s Benjamin Cardozo School of Law. Prior to serving in Congress, Grace was a member of the New York State Assembly. Before entering public service, she worked as a public-interest lawyer. Grace resides in Queens with her husband, Wayne, and two sons, Tyler and Brandon. Announcement Press Release
Senator Jacky Rosen (2019)
2019: Senator Jacky Rosen
Jacky Rosen is a U.S. Senator representing the state of Nevada. Rosen served in the U.S. House of Representatives in the 115th Congress where she served on the House Armed Services Committee. In the House, she was rated one of the most bipartisan members and was a member of the Problem Solvers Caucus.
In 2018, Rosen was elected to the U.S. Senate. Rosen serves on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Special Committee on Aging, Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, and Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control. She has been a champion for encouraging early childhood education in STEM, especially for young girls. Senator Rosen’s bipartisan Building Blocks of STEM Act is close to become a law. The bill would create and expand upon STEM education initiatives at the National Science Foundation (NSF) for young children, including new research grants to increase the participation of girls in computer science.
Prior to running for elected office, Rosen started her career as a computer programmer and software developer. She broke barriers in the male-dominated tech industry, working for major companies in Nevada. Rosen is also the former President of Congregation Ner Tamid, the state’s largest synagogue.
Rosen has lived in Nevada for nearly 40 years. She lives in Henderson with her husband Larry, a radiologist and they have one daughter, Miranda, who is a recent college graduate. Announcement Press Release
Senator Ed Markey (2018)
2018: Senator Ed Markey
Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) served in the House of Representatives for 37 years before being elected to the Senate in 2013m, where he serves on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. Markey has been a reliable champion for education, including fighting to ensure that students have access to broadband and education technology. As a House member, Markey was one of the chief architects of the E-rate program, through passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, and he has fought to strengthen and expand the program since its inception. While in the House, Congressman Markey introduced the Internet Freedom Preservation Act, the first net neutrality bill introduced in Congress, to ensure that as the Internet continues to evolve, it remains a level playing field guided by the principles of openness, competition and innovation. He continued his Net Neutrality work in the Senate earlier this year by introducing a Congressional Review Act resolution designed to restore the Federal Communications Commission’s Net Neutrality regulations. The resolution was narrowly approved by the Senate and is currently pending before the House. Markey has also been an advocate for balanced data privacy protections, including by contributing to the creation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act and by proposing improvements to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Announcement Press Release
Congressman Dave Loebsack (2016)
2016: Congressman Dave Loebsack
Congressman 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.
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)
SETDA 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)
Commissioner, 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)
U.S. Senator, Maine
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)
U.S Senator, Washington
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
2021: Dr. Sydnee Dickson, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Utah
Dr. Sydnee Dickson has been serving as Utah State Superintendent of Public Instruction since June of 2016 and served as interim state superintendent for six months prior to that. She has nearly 10 years of experience working in the office of the Utah State Board of Education (USBE). Prior to that Dickson worked in various counseling, teaching, and leadership capacities in the Davis, Granite and Murray school districts for 27 years. She holds an Ed.D. degree in Education Leadership and Policy from the University of Utah and a master of education degree from Brigham Young University in educational leadership and administration. Her bachelor’s degree in elementary education and teaching is from Utah State University.
The needs of the K-12 school system related to technology resources for blended and digital learning became even more important in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Utah was forced to support a rapid transition to online learning in a matter of days before restarting school and learning for over 660,000 students. Dr. Sydnee Dickson, supported by the state’s Digital Teaching and Learning (DTL) grant program, led the state response with both federal and state funds to support professional learning in the effective use of technology and access to devices, tools, and the internet in homes and schools. Dr. Sydnee Dickson, Utah’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, is our state leader and a national exemplar in supporting educational technology efforts for schools, teachers, families, and students.
Utah was positioned to quickly and effectively transition to remote learning thanks to many years of preparation and leadership from Dr. Sydnee Dickson. In 2015, the Utah state legislature called for the development of a master plan to improve classroom technology use. Under the direction of Dr. Dickson, the Utah State Board of Education convened local superintendents and technology directors, state board members, legislators, the governor’s office, and the Utah Education and Telehealth Network (UETN) to contribute to the creation of Utah’s Essential Elements for Technology Powered Learning. In the plan, Utah identified several components of effective technology integration and proposed a statewide DTL grant necessary for implementation, which became codified into law.
With DTL, Dr. Dickson decided against a top-down approach, which would have involved the state board directing LEAs to use funds towards specified activities. Instead, USBE asked each LEA to conduct a readiness assessment and use that data to create a personalized plan. The state board did set some guidelines, asking plans to address, among other items, professional learning, digital citizenship, and specific metrics. But by empowering LEAs to create their own plans, Dr. Dickson ensured that they would each develop a sense of shared ownership alongside stakeholders.
Data shows that Utah LEAs are prioritizing educator capacity. Administrators report spending DTL funds on professional learning, and much of the training is coordinated through our partners at UETN. USBE also offers pathways for educators to earn an educational technology endorsement. According to grantees, DTL is transforming the classroom by reinforcing students’ agency and active learning strategies. This impact demonstrates that the culture of digital learning is changing in Utah. As shown by scenarios we’ve collected on educators’ technology use, they’re less concerned about the devices and more about the pedagogical methods for accelerating learning. Under Superintendent Dickson’s leadership, the DTL grant has now grown to $20 million annually, as legislators continue to see widespread participation and early evidence of impact. Superintendent Dickson has been a constant advocate for educators and opportunities for professional learning to support their acceleration toward digital instruction.
It is clear that Superintendent Dickson is the state champion for learning for all students. She goes above and beyond as a leader, taking time to listen to students and teachers while balancing her leadership in policy and state education. She is often found on the #utedchat on Twitter on Wednesdays at 9PM, contributing to the Utah K-12 education community with ideas, kudos, and resources. She advocates and leads efforts for our teachers and students that extend beyond traditional education, such as with securing rapid COVID-19 tests and vaccines for the education community. Her tireless leadership provides a lighthouse for the state of Utah as we navigate these difficult times.
Dr. Sydnee Dickson is truly an exemplary leader of technology in education and exemplifies the best of how to effectively lead change. She continues to lead, guide and share her vision of the positive impact technology can have to improve teaching and learning. She is the ultimate advocate for the equity of access to home technology connections including digital tools and resources. Announcement Press Release
Governor Rick Snyder and the late State Superintendent Brian Whiston, Michigan (2018)
2018: Michigan – Governor Rick Snyder and the late State Superintendent Brian Whiston
Since his first year in office, State of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, has been a staunch supporter of education and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) efforts in support of increased student achievement. Under Governor Snyder’s leadership, the Technology Readiness Infrastructure Grant, which began in 2013, successfully prepared schools to implement digital state assessments. In 2013, the State School Aid Act appropriated $3 million for FIRST Robotics. Governor Snyder has attended the Michigan state FIRST championship since 2013, encouraging student participation in STEM. FIRST funding at the state level has continued every year since. As of the 2017-2018 school year, Michigan has 464 FIRST Robotics teams and is actively building a continuum of FIRST opportunities with expansion of the FIRST Robotics grant to FIRST Tech Challenge, FIRST Lego League, and JR FIRST Lego League. Michigan is also hosting the FIRST Robotics World Championship in Detroit through 2020! Beyond Governor Snyder’s initial work in support of online assessments and STEM, he has also charged a commission with increasing broadband access to under and unserved areas. Additionally, he has developed the “Marshall Plan for Talent,” a comprehensive plan to increase career exploration, help schools evolve to competency-based learning, and create multiple pathways for entry into the education workforce, particularly for critical shortage areas. The Marshall Plan is a revolutionary approach to building a stronger Michigan, leveraging business and industry.
Along with Governor Snyder, the late State Superintendent Brian Whiston established a vision through the Top 10 in 10 with the goal being to make Michigan a Top 10 Education State. According to the Top 10 in 10, “Every learner in Michigan’s public schools will have an inspiring, engaging, and caring learning environment that fosters creative and critical thinkers who believe in their ability to positively influence Michigan and the world beyond.” The vision that State Superintendent Whiston had set the State of Michigan on a path to becoming a Top 10 education state in 10 years. The Michigan Department of Education continues to work toward making that vision come a reality, to support learners and learning. Announcement Press Release
Jillian Balow, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Wyoming (2017)
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. Announcement Press Release
Dale Erquiaga, Office of the Governor, Nevada (2016)
2016: 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. Remarks from Dale Erquiaga
David C. Hespe and Evo Popoff, 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.
Tom Torlakson, California State Superintendent of Public Instruction (2012)
2012: Tom 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)
2011: Dr. 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)
2010: Dr. 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.
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)