One of the biggest challenges for any school district looking to undertake a major upgrade project is funding. Although the E-rate program provides substantial financial support, there is sometimes still a “gap” in funding that cannot be covered using the district’s existing operating/technology budget. The following is a selection of resources schools can use to try to bridge the funding gap.
In a number of states, Governors and State Legislators have appropriated funding specifically to support K-12 connectivity. Typically this grant funding is designed to be used to connect schools to higher speed broadband circuits to ensure they are equipped to handle online testing. Additionally, some states allow capital improvement or building construction funds to be used towards structured cabling and internal network equipment. Be sure to check your state and local laws for guidance.
In addition to other state level funding, the Second E-rate Modernization provides an opportunity for districts to receive up to a 10% additional discount on special construction costs if a state also invests in the project. The E-rate match is a dollar for dollar match of funding a State or US Territory provides to the construction of an E-Rate eligible project. See the State Matching Fund page for more information.
Bonds are often used by school districts to raise additional funds to finance a building project or other capital project. A school bond must be voted on by members of the community in which the school is located. Requirements for bond measures are based on local and state rules.
In general, bond issues can be a good source of additional funding to cover the large one-off post-E-rate cost of an upgrade project. However, getting a bond measure on the ballot is a lengthy and complex process that requires dedicated time and effort. Bond campaigns that aim to raise funds to support an upgrade should ensure that the money is earmarked for this particular project. The need for the upgrade should be clearly shared with the community in a compelling way, so that it resonates with voters who value the role that technology plays in improving educational outcomes in their community.
Because federal grants can be highly competitive, have long application processes, stringent eligibility requirements, and complicated rules and regulations, they might require hiring outside expertise to deliver. So although grants can be appealing, school districts should take the time to carefully consider whether to dedicate time and resources to the application process (or whether that time and cost would be better directed to the upgrade itself).
A full list of federal grants.
The mission of the Impact Aid Program is to disburse Impact Aid payments to local educational agencies that are financially burdened by federal activities. The Small, Rural School Achievement (SRSA) program is to provide rural local education agencies with financial assistance to fund initiatives aimed at improving student academic achievement.
Grant-funding priorities include “supporting personalized learning.” Awards are given in three different categories: Development, Validation, and Scale-up.
There are multiple non-governmental institutions that provide grants to public entities as part of their philanthropic mission. Grants are one-time infusions of cash into a district budget and are not generally a reliable or sustainable funding source; more often grants are made available for purchase of devices rather than for underlying services. We see relatively a limited scope for districts to utilize private grant funding to support their upgrade projects.
Updated weekly by Edutopia this website provides a roundup of educational grants, contests, awards, free toolkits, and classroom guides aimed at helping students, classrooms, schools, and communities.
The Foundation Center is a leading source of information about philanthropy worldwide and maintains a comprehensive database on U.S. and, increasingly, global grantmakers and their grants.
Good 360 is a non-profit organization that partners with hundreds of companies, including 125 on the Fortune 500 list, to distributing $300 million in critical goods each year. Schools create a “wishlist” of products such as computers, routers, etc. for companies to fulfill.
List with descriptions of federal grant programs to support fiber to homes nationwide. Resources listed are, in most cases, also applicable to bringing fiber to public schools.