As stories throughout this month’s issue of eSchool News make abundantly clear, recent challenges to federal funding programs threaten to diminish government resources for school technology.

For years, the federal government has vowed to help schools acquire and install big-ticket items like technology infrastructure. But some of what seemed to be the most promising federal funding sources for school technology now are under fire. The eRate program–a federal initiative to help schools and libraries connect to the internet–has been slashed. And right now Congress is considering legislation that would block schools that get what’s left of the eRate funds from receiving technology support from other federal programs.

In short, it’s inadvisable to rely too heavily on federal funds alone in the effort to integrate technology into the curriculum and school operations. The prevailing uncertainty in Washington increases the value of diversification in school funding programs. Schools that are able to structure their technology fund raising programs to capitalize on opportunities in both the public and private sectors have the best chance of avoiding problems because of adverse, last-minute political decisions.

But a stable, diversified base of financial support depends on a technology fund-raising strategy that comprises three essential components:

  • building a successful funding team,

  • expanding your base of support beyond federal funds to include corporate and private philanthropic channels, and

  • working with your local communities to build solid partnerships that ca leveage critical dollars.

Grants & Funding for School Technology

Because achieving those essential elements is easier said than done and cannot be adequately addressed in a single article, eSchool News has organized a strategic conference to help educators develop a sophisticated, systematic, technology-oriented approach to financial development. Called Grants & Funding for School Technology, our conference will be held on November 5 and 6 in Alexandria, Va., in metropolitan Washington, D.C.

This symposium will bring together leaders from school districts and state departments of education, grants writers and fund-raising experts, and corporate, foundation, and federal/state grant givers. Through peer exchange and expert advice, the conference will offer school leaders the help they need to establish an organized, diversified strategy to raise funds for school technology.

On rapidly shifting programs such as the eRate, conference-goers will get a briefing directly from the top, straight from the first chief of the federal Schools and Libraries Corp. (SLC), the agency that administers the eRate.

In a rare speaking engagement on Friday, Nov. 6 Ira Fishman will address educators’ concerns in a session called “eRate Update: Current Perspectives and Analysis.”

Fishman will discuss the future of the eRate and will explain what the changes will mean for schools during the second round of applications. The presentation will be followed by a panel discussion with the SLC’s Director of Technology Planning & Evaluation, Tom Carroll.

For an up-to-the-minute overview of funding opportunities available through the U.S. Department of Education (ED), attendees will hear a keynote address by Linda Roberts, director of ED’s office of educational technology.

From the practitioner’s perspective, a roster of notable school executives includes one of the nation’s most respected and sophisticated school leaders. Robert “Bud” Spillane will address the conference on the role of the School District Foundation and how to use it to leverage technology funding programs. Now head of the Overseas Schools program of the U.S. Department of State, Spillane–long-time superintendent of the Fairfax County, Va., Public Schools; multiple laureate of the Executive Educator 100 program, and 1995 National Superintendent of the Year–will explain some of the funding strategies he used to make Fairfax County a lighthouse district for school technology.

School technology grant decision makers

Conference attendees also will learn about technology funding sources and strategies straight from the program officers themselves–the people who make critical decisions and approve grant requests.

Speakers include Barbara Ashbrook of the National Endowment for the Humanities; Cheryl Garnette of the ED’s Star Schools program; Lammot du Pont of the NTIA’s Telecommunications Information Infrastructure Assistance Program; Tom Fagan of ED’s Technology Literacy Challenge Fund; and Mike Haney of the National Science Foundation.

School technology grant decision makers from corporate foundations such as the AT&T Foundation and the Cisco Foundation also are on the program, as are the nation’s leading authorities on successful grant seeking and fund raising.

The conference is divided into two tracks. The hands-on, practitioner-oriented Tools & Techniques track covers topics such as how to make your technology plan a powerful fund raising tool, how to approach a corporation for a grant, and the key elements of successful grants writing.

A Policy & Management track will include insights on how to build public/private strategic alliances, create and manage a successful school foundation, and how to find and hire a winning fund raising specialist.

With federal funding increasingly volatile, now is the right time to increase your fund raising acumen. The eSchool News strategic conference on Grants & Funding for School Technology, Nov. 5-6 in Alexandria, VA., is the perfect place to do it. I’ll look forward to seeing you there.

For additional information on Grants & Funding for School Technology, contact eSchool News: conference hotline:(800) 394-0115×104 fax: (301) 913-0119 eMail: conferences@eschoolnews.org write: eSchool News, 7920 Norfolk Ave., #900, Bethesda, MD 20814 visit: http://www.eSchoolNews.org