Funder Profiles: An insider’s guide to understanding this month’s grant opportunities

Public Telecommunications Facilities Program (PTFP)

Dennis R. Connors, Director

Office of Telecommunications and

Information Applications

NTIA, U.S. Department of Commerce

1401 Constitution Ave., N.W., Room 4625

Washington, DC 20230

phone: (202) 482-5802

fax: (202) 482-2156



Through matching grants, PTFP supports the planning and construction of public telecommunications facilities in order to: (1) extend the delivery of services to as many people as possible by the most cost-effective means, including broadcast and nonbroadcast technologies; (2) increase services available to, operated by, and controlled by minorities and women; and (3) strengthen the capability of existing public TV and radio stations to provide services to the public.

PTFP’s Distance Learning category is open to public school systems and not-for-profit private schools. Last year’s winners included St. Clair County Intermediate School District in Michigan, which was given $430,000 to purchase equipment for video classrooms in 11 schools, a vocational education center, and a local community college; and Montrose School District in South Dakota, which received $565,000 to establish a distance learning system connecting 10 high schools in extremely rural areas of the state.

Although the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is often associated with funding rural projects, “rural is not a limiting factor to the grant,” according to program officer Charles Estep.

PTFP projects will receive favorable consideration, though, if they promise to accomplish one or more of the following objectives:

(1) reach a large number of potential students, especially those in remote isolated areas, or reach a high number of potential beneficiaries (an example of the latter might be the activation of a series of satellite transmit earth stations [uplinks] to form the nucleus of a far-ranging course distribution system);

(2) reach students who clearly would never receive the coursework offered without the project;

(3) meet some special need; e.g., a state mandate to raise substantially the educational achievement level of all students, including those in isolated areas; and

(4) assist the nation’s international competitiveness.

NTIA also looks favorably on the participation of minorities and women in offering instructional programming or in receiving it.

PTFP grants generally support half of a project’s total cost. The criteria for evaluation of a project are as follows:

Project objectives (how well you can demonstrate that your project meets the above purpose): one-third

Urgency (how well you can demonstrate a need for your project): one-third

Technical qualifications (how well you can document that the equipment you’ve requested best fulfills the project’s needs): one-third

In addition, NTIA will request proof that you have enough qualified personnel to operate and maintain the project, that you’ll be providing services of professional quality, and that you’ll be able to fund your share of the project.

Connie Colwill, superintendent of Montrose School District, told STFB she believes her district benefitted from having a female superintendent as an applicant last year. Montrose served as the fiscal agent for the project in a consortium with nine other districts.

The grant funded $565,000 of the $1,050,000 cost to install distance learning labs in the districts’ high schools, including two-way interactive video and audio transmitted over a T1 line. The group hired an engineering firm to design the system, but the consulting fee was not eligible for support, Colwill said.

Colwill’s tip: Include plenty of documentation to support your proposal. “Some other schools from South Dakota had put in a similar system last year, and we based the price of our equipment on their system’s cost,” Colwill said. “[NTIA] thought the money we would be spending was too high, but we had the figures to back up our request.”

Letters of support from the community also helped demonstrate a need for the project, Colwill said, which added credibility to the criterion of “urgency.”

Division of Human Resource Development, Room 815

Directorate for Education and Human Resources

National Science Foundation

4201 Wilson Blvd.

Arlington, VA 22230

phone: (703) 306-1637


This program’s goal is to change the factors that have discouraged an early and continuing interest in science, math, engineering, and technology (SMET) among girls and women. It funds large projects with the potential for significant impact on developing the interest, knowledge, and involvement of girls and young women in these fields.

Only K-12 school districts–not individual schools–are eligible to apply, though individual schools may be included as collaborators in a project.

Large Collaborative Projects must build on existing research about gender iniquities; be grounded in strong SMET content; involve multiple institutions and target multiple populations; and include a solid evaluation process. The target populations may be a mix of students, teachers, counselors, parents, community leaders, administrators, teacher-educators, faculty, student and adult mentors, and others.

When drafting your proposal, you should think in terms of the impact your project will have on the field, NSF advises. Impact is a big factor in the review and rating of proposals.

If you’re not ready to apply for a Large Collaborative Project grant, you might want to apply for a Planning Grant: up to $30,000 to plan a proposal for next year’s competition.

Last year’s grants included $99,810 over two years to Washington Elementary School District of Phoenix, Ariz., for a mentoring and career development program for eighth-grade girls in engineering; and $886,650 over three years to Sweetwater Union High School District of Chula Vista, Calif., for projects to help young women prepare for careers in science or technology.

Sweetwater’s project involves a collaboration with twenty university, business, and community partners. It targets underrepresented middle school girls, 80 percent of whom are ethnic minorities.

The project includes four major elements: (1) Comprehensive professional development for the district’s counselors and science, math, and technology teachers; (2) intensive services for middle school girls, including extra counseling, mentoring, science/ math/ technology clubs, hands-on math and science activities, a single-gender math/ science/ technology summer “camp,” and parent participation events; (3) teacher development of program curriculum and products; and (4) articulation, integration, and dissemination among a wide array of project partners.

Sweetwater’s project is guided by three major objectives: (1) Increasing the number of young women accessing rigorous science, math, technology and engineering-related learning; (2) improving the achievement of girls in higher levels of science, math and technology; and (3) enhancing equity for girls by promoting systemic change in partnership with educators, families, and community members.

eSchool News Staff

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