As I have mentioned in several blogs that I have written, I am from Texas. This information is normally of no consequence to my readers but is worth mentioning for the topic of this particular blog. I have a request of you: Go to your most used Internet search engine and type “Texas school finance”. I’ll wait…
My search engine showed approximately 1,900,000 results. If you expand the search to the entire nation, I received 4,900,000 results. Clicking on any article will illustrate for you the point of this conversation.
It is clear that financing education in America is a contentious and complicated issue. It seems that every state is wrestling over finding the funds to give to education. More to the point, there seem to be arguments for where that money should be spent, whether in charter school or voucher programs. There is also discussion on where the money should come from, whether local tax dollars, the state revenue stream, or the form of bonds that are issued by cities and local independent school districts.
Given the political and economic climate that seems to make it difficult for schools to find enough of the funding it needs to educate students, it becomes easy for districts to cut large projects and programs in an effort to save dollars for priorities. It is not uncommon for technology to hit the cutting room floor.
Here are some strategies for making sure that technology funding remains a priority for your school district during uncertain economic times:
Consult with the RIGHT people
There is no shortage of consultants and companies that specialize in helping school districts seek funding for technology including E-Rate dollars. However, many of these companies charge significant fees and really just help you push your application through the system rather than helping to provide you with a valuable solution. Companies like Samsung Wireless will not only consult with you to ensure your E-Rate application is successful but will also provide you with a variety of solutions designed to ensure a successful technology implementation.
Seek Education/Business Partnerships
Numerous technology companies are seeking opportunities to partner with school districts to test new products or provide wireless access for schools in an effort to close the digital divide. If you are opening a new school or refurbishing an older campus, there are businesses who are willing to invest in the infrastructure and increase the technology access of those buildings as a way to provide positive exposure and connection with the school community. Be willing to seek these partnerships and be open to a prosperous relationship.
Buy only what you need
This requires a solid plan on your part and long-range planning. Older computers become unsustainable over time and can cost you additional money. When you create a technology plan, be sure to include a strategy for cycling out old technologies, bringing in the new, and replacing these devices over time. Calculate the cost of maintenance, repair, personnel, and recycling into your plan.
Make the most of your E-Rate funding
The Universal Service Fund (E-Rate) has helped schools across the United States support their technology plans. The Federal Communication Commission has been charged with managing and maintaining the application process, which is long and arduous, but can help support your goals. Make the application as part of a significant process, employing a strong team of people who are invested in improving technology for the district. Be sure you save every piece of paper related to purchase orders, invoices, resources, and other important documents that will be needed for the application. You will also need your district demographics as more dollars are invested by the government in schools that are located in low income areas.