Grant Opportunites


Ameritech donated $3.2 million to K-12 schools in 1997. Through its SuperSchool program, the company supports projects that help school leaders learn how to use technology in their schools. It also funds alliances among schools so they may benefit from telecommunications technologies they otherwise couldn’t afford. Ameritech awards are limited to schools in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

(312) 750-5037.

AT&T Learning Network Grants

The AT&T Foundation supports school programs that use technology to enhance teaching and learning. Grants are available to all accredited public and private elementary and secondary schools. The grants must fund the use and application of technology, not the equipment and infrastructure necessary to support its use. AT&T is interested in projects that involve family involvement, professional development, lifelong learning, and community collaboration. The AT&T Foundation currently does not accept unsolicited proposals, but you are invited to submit a brief, one-page letter of interest stating your request. For more information, contact Marilyn Reznick at

(212) 387-6555

Digital Corporate Contributions Program

Digital Equipment Corporation seeks to promote academic excellence through the accessibility of technology in the classroom. Digital provides cash or equipment grants to schools who can demonstrate a special need or an innovative use for the assistance. You are encouraged to call the Corporate Contributions office to discuss your project or contact the office by eMail,

(508) 493-6550

Eaton Corporation Foundation

The Eaton Corporation Foundation funds projects that prepare minority youth for employment, particularly those which focus on math, science, and technology careers. Grants range from $1,000 to $25,000, with over $1 million awarded last year. Schools and non-profits are eligible, but the foundation restricts its giving to the 30 states with company operations. Call for application guidelines.

(216) 523-5000

Hewlett-Packard Grants

Hewlett-Packard makes cash or equipment donations for model programs supporting national K-12 math and science initiatives. HP’s Contributions Board makes quarterly funding decisions. Preference is given to projects that are national in scope, can be replicated nationally, or are located in communities where HP has a corporate facility. Applicants must submit a proposal summary form (available on the web site) and 5-page narrative.

(415) 857-5197

Intel Foundation

Intel funds programs that advance math, science, or technology education, promote science careers among women and underrepresented minorities, or increase public understanding of technology and its impact. National grants apply to nationwide projects or pilots for national programs. Community grants apply to projects located in a community where Intel has a major facility: Arizona, California, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, or Washington. An application is available at the web site.

Mars Foundation

The Mars Foundation offers a variety of grants ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 for K-12 curriculum development, teacher professional development, computer and equipment acquisitions, and capital building projects. For additional information, write to Sue Martin, Mars Foundation, 6885 Elm Street, McLean, VA 22101.

Motorola Foundation

Grants from $1,000 to $10,000 that focus on enhancing math, science, and technology opportunities for minorities and the economically-disadvantaged are available from the Motorola Foundation. Contact: Program Manager, Motorola Foundation, 1303 East Algonquin Road, Schaumburg, IL 60196.

(708) 576-6200

Pfizer Education Initiative

Although the Pfizer Foundation is primarily concerned with health care, you might be able to slip in through an education program called “Utilizing New Technology.” Grants of up to $10,000 are given for teacher training or the application of technology in K-12 math and science classrooms. Applications may be submitted anytime.

Sprint Foundation

Don Forsythe, a Sprint Foundation program officer, said a limited number of grants would be available for projects in areas with a significant employee presence, primarily Kansas City, Atlanta, Dallas, and Sacramento. The Sprint Foundation supports projects that foster school reform through the use of new technologies and communications media and through fresh approaches to the enhancement of teachers’ skills. Schools and other education-related non-profit agencies can apply for grants totaling about $500,000 per year. Call to talk to a program officer first. Or check out Sprint’s web site for application guidelines.

(913) 624-3343


Newslines–Mississippi State to study internet searches

Sifting through thousands of irrelevant links when doing a simple internet search soon may be a thing of the past: Researchers at Mississippi State University are studying ways to make information searches on the internet easier. The work is being funded by a $2 million grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency-Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center.

“The Defense Department, which has a large training and education component, wants to assure that effective instruction is taking place on the internet,” said Richard D. Koshel of the university’s Center for Educational and Training Technology.

The center is leading the research effort, which also includes a subcontract with the University of Hawaii. The research team will include faculty members in education, physics, and engineering.

Koshel said the job will be monumental.

“The internet is experiencing explosive growth, with the amount of information doubling every 18 months,” he said. “It is our goal to create a system than enables the average internet user to pull together very specific information efficiently.”


Funding plan cheats rural schools, critics say

A biased distribution of technology funding has left schools in northern and western Wisconsin out in the cold, critics say. According to school officials, when the board that supervises the Technology Education Achievement, or TEACH, program doled out $6 million in December, it ignored many rural districts that have limited financial resources and need the state aid.

“We believed all along we’d get some of that money and we were counting on it,” said Ken Kasinski, Washburn School District superintendent.

TEACH is a state-funded method of helping schools and libraries acquire computers, internet access, and staff training. The Wisconsin legislature provided $200 million of its two-year state budget for the program.

Democratic Sen. Robert Jauch accused the program’s board of violating the legislature’s wish to have funds distributed throughout the state. “The decision is a huge step backwards and leaves people of the north wondering if, indeed, they are full-fledged citizens of the state of Wisconsin,” he said.

But Mark Bugher, secretary of the Department of Administration, said three of the state’s Cooperative Education Services, or CESA, agencies received no funds because legislators created a competitive-bidding process.

“With all due respect, it’s hard to have it both ways,” Bugher said. “Either the grants are given on the basis of the quality of the application or by geography.”

CESA District 12, representing 18 northern school districts including Kasinski’s, applied for $420,000 and got nothing. Rural school boards in CESA 12 are less able to afford staff training than are some of the larger southeastern districts that received funding, Kasinski said.

They’re also less able to afford well-trained grant writers, which is why critics of the process sees it as biased toward wealthier regions.

Jauch is one of several legislators who helped write the TEACH law. He said the legislation ordered the board, “to the extent possible, ensure that grants are equally distributed on a statewide basis.”

Jauch said he wants to speak with Gov. Tommy Thompson about a special appropriation for the northern and western CESA districts that got nothing.

Superintendent-elect blocks South Carolina computer contract

South Carolina superintendent-elect Inez Tenebaum has halted a $36 million computer contract between the state Department of Education and National Computer Systems (NCS) of Mesa, Ariz. Tenebaum, who takes office Jan. 13, intervened because she is concerned the department can’t afford the five-year deal.

The contract is for software designed to reduce local school districts’ reliance on paperwork. NCS beat out six other companies for the bid that took three years to research and draft.

Tenebaum said she wants to get the state legislature’s approval before committing to such a large project. She sent NCS’s attorney a letter alerting him of her intentions to cancel the contract under terms of the proposal request.

“That gives me time once I get into office to look at the merits of the contract and money situation and gives me the time to make a decision on the issue that we’re going to have to live with a long time,” Tenebaum said.

Outgoing superintendent Barbara Nielsen, who did not seek re-election, said she was disappointed with Tenebaum’s decision. “I guess the schools will have to suffer,” she said.

Nielsen said money is available for the project. About three-quarters of the annual payments would come from the federal government, she said.

“I think she should study it very carefully,” Nielsen said. “It’s an excellent, comprehensive system.”

Mississippi State to study internet searches

Sifting through thousands of irrelevant links when doing a simple internet search soon may be a thing of the past: Researchers at Mississippi State University are studying ways to make information searches on the internet easier. The work is being funded by a $2 million grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency-Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center.

“The Defense Department, which has a large training and education component, wants to assure that effective instruction is taking place on the internet,” said Richard D. Koshel of the university’s Center for Educational and Training Technology.

The center is leading the research effort, which also includes a subcontract with the University of Hawaii. The research team will include faculty members in education, physics, and engineering.

Koshel said the job will be monumental.

“The internet is experiencing explosive growth, with the amount of information doubling every 18 months,” he said. “It is our goal to create a system than enables the average internet user to pull together very specific information efficiently.”


Newslines–Video poker operator to supply school computers

A decision by Oconee County, S.C. schools to accept new computers from a video poker parlor owner has drawn criticism from some school trustees. On Dec. 14, the trustees voted 3-2 to accept an offer from Fair Play businessman Charles Kormelink to donate one new computer a month to the district.

“It’s a morality thing with me,” trustee Harry Mays Jr. said, who along with Barbara Whitney, voted against the proposal. “We have to draw the line somewhere.”

But trustee Steven Moore said accepting money or gifts from the video poker industry is the same as benefiting from tax revenue generated by cigarette and alcohol sales.

Kormelink is co-owner of the North of the Border game room and also has interests in a restaurant, fireworks business and real estate company in the county.

“It’s been our corporate philosophy to try and reinvest in the community, and we looked around and education seems to be the county’s biggest priority,” Kormelink said. He said he plans to spend about $1,000 per computer with money from game room profits.

Oconee County Superintendent Buddy Herring understands the concerns, but said the district should accept the offer. “If they’re willing to donate computers we can use, and we get them no strings attached, I don’t have any problem with it,” he said. “We can certainly use the computers.”

Joe Rukat, who oversees the district’s technology department, said Kormelink’s offer was generous, but was just a small part of the overall technology in the classroom picture.

The district has a $4 million plan to put at least six computers in each classroom in the county’s 20 schools. The district has already used about $700,000 in state and local funds to buy 400 computers this year. Still, some classrooms don’t have computers and many have computers without access to the internet.


Newslines–Alcohol web sites are luring children, report says

A report issued Dec. 16 by the Center for Media Education claims that web sites promoting alcoholic beverages too often contain cartoons and other elements that could appeal to children.

Researchers who examined 77 alcohol sites from August to October found that 62 percent included features that children might find appealing, such as games, cartoon figures, or the use of “youth-oriented” language. One example cited by the report is a stick-shaped character named EZ, whose animated escapades appear on the web site for Southern Comfort.

Only one of the sites examined, Budweiser’s, contained any “substantive information” on alcohol abuse, the report said.

Kathryn Montgomery, president of the Center for Media Education, told the New York Times that such features seem designed to attract people under 21, the minimum age for purchasing alcohol in all 50 states. But representatives of the beer and liquor industries disputed her claims.

“The web sites are for people 21 and older,” Jeffrey G. Becker, vice president of alcohol issues for the Washington-based Beer Institute, told the Times. If some sites seem youthful, it’s probably more a reflection of the web’s being designed to be “fun and enjoyable,” he said.


Newslines–Former principal pleads guilty in child pornography case

A former school principal fired after child pornography was allegedly found in his office has pleaded guilty to a lesser charge. Steven Robert Davidson, who was principal at Delran Intermediate School in Delran, N.J., pleaded guilty Dec. 16 to official misconduct for using a school computer for personal use.

In exchange, prosecutors will recommend that Davidson, 37, of Bensalem, Pa., be sentenced to probation at his sentencing Feb. 10 before Superior Court Judge Donald Gaydos.

Davidson must surrender his New Jersey teaching license under the plea agreement and is permanently barred from seeking public employment in the state. He must also undergo psychological testing.

He was arrested in February 1998 and charged with child endangerment after a worker at the school found a dozen photographs of children having sex. Authorities said none were of children from the school.

The school board fired Davidson from the $65,000 a year job he had held since 1996. The school has about 500 students in grades three through five.

The judge ruled at an earlier proceeding that half of the images were not pornographic. At the Dec. 16 plea, neither the pornography nor the unauthorized purchases Davidson allegedly made with the school computer were mentioned.


FYI: This Month’s Links

American Association of School Administrators

Birmingham Public Schools

Council of Chief State School Officers

Federal Communications Commission

General Accounting Office

Rep. Earl Blumenauer,gov/blumenauer

Rep. Ed Royce

Rep. Pete Sessions

Rep. Billy Tauzin

Schools and Libraries Division

Sen. Conrad Burns

Sen. Fritz Hollings

Sen. John McCain

Text of S.97, the Children’s Internet Protection Act (in PDF format)


eRate tip

As of Feb. 1, 1999, more than 18,000 eRate applications for the 1998-99 program year have been funded, totaling more than $700 million. Over the next few weeks, an additional billion dollars will head out to schools across the country. As they would say on Wall Street, the eRate program is in the money!

With this milestone in the program, your focus in February and March should be less on “show me the money” and more on applying for the money. Now is the time to apply for 1999-2000 eRate funding by preparing and submitting Forms 470 and 471.

This article will cover some tips and strategies to help you put together a winning Form 471 as you “go for the money” in 1999.

Get your district’s average discount right

For services that will be shared across multiple schools, the applicable eRate discount level is the weighted average of the individual schools’ discount levels.

If you calculate this discount right, you’ll save a lot of time by not having to rework the number with the SLD when your application is under review. The less reworking you have to do with the SLD, the faster your application can be processed and the sooner you’ll get your funding commitment letter, which will give you more time to implement the services you’ve requested.

Furthermore, if a shared service falls under the category of internal connection, its chance of being funded is critically dependent on what the weighted average discount comes out to be. For example, as of Feb. 1, a discount level of 78 percent has a significantly better chance than that of 68 percent for receiving internal connections funding in the 1998-99 program year.

Here’s an example of how the wrong calculation can put your funding chance for shared internal connections at risk. District A has three schools, X, Y, and Z, with the following profiles:

No. of Students eRate Discount
School X: 100 60%
School Y: 200 70%
School Z: 500 90%

The wrong calculation would take the simple average of the three discount percentages:

(60% + 70% + 90%) / 3 = 73.3%

The right calculation would weigh each school’s discount by the number of students in that school, add up the weighted discounts, then divide the sum by the total number of students across all three schools:

[ (60% x 100) + (70% x 200) + (90% x 500) ] / 800 =

[ 6,000% + 14,000% + 45,000% ] / 800 =

[ 65,000% ] / 800 = 81.25%

As you can see, doing it right puts you at the 81 percent discount level and into funding possibilities. The wrong calculation would put you at 73 percent and a much longer shot at getting funding.

To help you breeze through all this math, the eRate consulting firm Funds for Learning has developed a spreadsheet that automatically calculates your weighted discount percentage. The spreadsheet can be downloaded from

Once you download the spreadsheet, fill in your total student enrollment and the number of students eligible for the national school lunch program for each school in your consortium or district, and the spreadsheet will calculate the weighted average discount rate for you.

Shared vs. site-specific implementation

As you may already know from working with your vendors, there are many alternative technical approaches to delivering telecommunications services and internet access to schools. While the various approaches may all technically work just fine, you might want to analyze how each approach makes use of shared vs. site-specific implementation and the financial impact it represents on the eRate equation. Let’s look at an example:

The same District A is evaluating three technical approaches to providing internet access to the three schools. The approaches are: centralized (everything is shared, minimal site-based component), distributed (everything is site-based, minimal sharing), and hybrid (interdependent sites). The cost profile for the three approaches is as follows:

Centralized Distributed Hybrid
District Office: $30,000 $2,000 $8,000
School X: $ 2,000 $10,000 $8,000
School Y: $2,000 $10,000 $8,000
School Z: $2,000 $10,000 $8,000

Let’s see how this translates into net discounted costs to the district when the eRate is factored in.

— Centralized —
District Office: $30,000 @ 81% discount = $5,700
School X: $ 2,000 @ 60% discount = $ 800
School Y: $ 2,000 @ 70% discount = $ 600
School Z: $ 2,000 @ 90% discount = $ 200
Prediscount cost: $36,000 Net discounted cost: $7,300

— Distributed —
District Office: $ 2,000 @ 81% discount = $ 380
School X: $10,000 @ 60% discount = $4,000
School Y: $10,000 @ 70% discount = $3,000
School Z: $10,000 @ 90% discount = $1,000
Prediscount cost: $32,000 Net discounted cost: $8,380


— Hybrid —
District Office: $ 8,000 @ 81% discount = $1,520
School X: $ 8,000 @ 60% discount = $3,200
School Y: $ 8,000 @ 70% discount = $2,400
School Z: $ 8,000 @ 90% discount = $ 800
Prediscount cost: $32,000 Net discounted cost: $7,920

From the above illustrations, we can make some interesting comparisons: The prediscount cost for the distributed approach is less than that of the centralized approach, yet its cost after discounts is higher. The hybrid approach costs the same as the distributed approach before discounts—but after discounts, it costs less.

Even though these are hypothetical numbers used for illustrative purpose, the discounting effect is a real phenomenon. When it’s applied to a large dollar project, significant differences in net costs could arise. You’d be wise to analyze a proposal’s net cost, since a lower price proposal may not always turn out to be the lower cost.

Line-item veto is not just for the president

Having gone through one eRate application season, we now know that the line item veto is also a favorite thing with the SLD. That is, every line item that you enter in Block 5 of Form 471 is assigned a Funding Request Number (FRN) and becomes a discrete subject for funding decision.

For example, a Form 471 containing three line items in Block 5 would invoke three funding decisions. Each FRN could be fully funded, partially funded, not funded (out of money), or denied. With the knowledge that funding is made at the FRN level, you can adopt a strategy on whether to file for a few large line items or for numerous smaller line items. Here are some points to consider:

If you’re procuring services from multiple service providers, each FRN should pertain to only one service provider. That is, you should not combine services from two or more service providers into one FRN.

If a service provider is supplying numerous services that fall under more than one category of eligibility (telecommunications, internet access, and internal connection), then the services for each category should be filed as its own FRN. For example, if a service provider is supplying telecommunications as well as internal connections, there should be at least two FRNs for this service provider—one for telecommunications and the other for internal connections.

There are at least two good reasons for doing this: first, the SLD funds telecommunications with a higher priority than internal connections; second, the contract terms and conditions for telecommunications most likely are very different from those of internal connections (e.g., ongoing vs. one-time charges).

Even if a service provider is supplying only one category of service, you can choose to spread the services across multiple FRNs so you don’t put all your eggs in one basket. The idea here is not to let a conflict of interpretation on a service’s eligibility or the validity of its contract jeopardize all other services in the same FRN. Think of a submarine and its isolating compartments—it’s the same strategy.

If you’ve reviewed the list of eligible services published by the SLD on its web site, you may agree that it represents a good general framework but still leaves many gray areas. The pace of technology innovation and the continual enrichment of product features offered by the industry make it virtually impossible for any such list to be complete and exhaustive.

If you’re evaluating a service that is rich in functions and features—which means it does more than just eRate eligible functions—you need to interpret the rule of eligibility for this service and decide whether you want to isolate it with its own FRN.

Another benefit of spreading services over multiple FRNs is the greater control it gives you during the implementation phase. Since each FRN is funded separately, you start, stop, or cancel each one without affecting other services. This is done through Form 486, which you fill out after getting your funding commitment letter to inform the SLD on the status of a service’s implementation.

The price you pay for the benefits of spreading services over multiple FRNs is the extra work you must put in for each additional line item you fill out in Block 5. This not only represents more data entry when you’re preparing your application, but could potentially mean more follow-up with the SLD during application review due to the increased number of FRNs being reviewed.

Hopefully, this article has given you additional insight on some options and tradeoffs that you can adopt as part of your strategy for securing eRate funding. As always, the SLD holds the official guidelines on the administration of the eRate program and should be consulted for official guidance. The SLD’s Client Service Bureau can be reached at (888) 203-8100

As a worldwide marketing manager for universal access solutions in IBM’s Global Education Industry Solution Unit, Man Bui works with schools and libraries to help them understand, apply for, and make effective use of the eRate. He can be reached at


…as the money keeps rolling in

Since the last issue of eRate Update, an additional $545 million in funding has been committed to 8,000 applicants. With the seventh wave of funding commitments issued Feb. 3, more than 18,000 applicants have been assured a total of $760 million, or about 40 percent of the money available for the 1998-1999 program year.

The seventh wave, which committed $140 million to 1,500 applicants, established a new high of $93,300 in average funding per applicant. That figure more than doubled the $36,600 per-applicant average of the first six waves.

Subsequent waves will continue to see large increases in the size of awards, SLD officials said, as the agency will be making decisions on many applications from large school districts and consortia that it had yet to consider.

New threshold for wiring requests

With the sixth wave of letters issued Jan. 28, the SLD further narrowed its working thresholds for the funding of internal connections.

For the first time, the agency extended funding for internal connections to applicants who qualify for discounts of 77 percent and above. The SLD also announced that applicants who qualify for discounts of 61 percent or less will not receive funding for their internal connections this year.

Applicants who qualify for discounts between 61 and 77 percent will have to wait until further waves are issued to know whether their internal connections will be funded. The previous thresholds had been 80 percent and above for funding and 49 percent or below for no funding.

With wave six, the SLD also began to issue separate funding commitment letters for different services within a single application. Applicants between 61 and 77 percent should receive one letter for telecommunications services now and a separate letter for internal connections later.

The sixth wave of letters committed $192 million in funds to 3,400 schools and libraries. Wave five, the largest to date, allocated $211 million to 4,500 applicants on Jan. 21.


Birmingham schools get $13.9 million in eRate discounts…

With the seventh wave of funding commitments issued Feb. 3, Birmingham (Ala.) Public Schools became the largest single recipient of eRate funding to date. The district, which qualifies for an 81 percent discount on telecommunications services, was approved for $13,924,143.81 in funding.

“This is a wonderful day for the students of the Birmingham Public Schools,” said Superintendent Johnny E. Brown. “These dollars will ensure that our children have the same access to technology and the world of knowledge that children in wealthier districts have.”

The total cost of the projects that will be funded through the eRate is $17.2 million. The system’s share of the cost, about $3.3 million, will come from a variety of sources, including local dollars and federal Goals 2000 grants.

When the work is completed this summer, all 78 schools and every office in the 40,000-student district will be networked, with local area networks (LANs)inside each facility and a wide area network (WAN) connecting the buildings. All schools will get internet access, and a new system-wide, state-of-the-art telephone system will be installed as well.

“We’ve been waiting for this like everyone else—it’s been long in coming,” said Ken Wasmund, chief technology officer for the district. “We’re excited that we have it and we’re geared up to use it. This is going to take us from the 20th century to the 21st century almost overnight.”

Huge savings

Birmingham Public Schools submitted a single eRate application encompassing all the district’s requests, Wasmund said.

The district applied for discounts on telecommunications services and internal connections. Its internet service provider, the Alabama State Supercomputer Authority, is providing internet access free of charge, he said.

The district plans to run enhanced category 5 cable with drop points for internet access to each classroom and office—about 4,000 sites altogether—with a fiber backbone connecting the cabling to a central file server.

Each classroom will have a minimum of eight communication ports, five of which will be used right away—one for phone service, one for the teacher’s workstation, and three for student computers.

The total pre-discount cost for the district’s internal connections requests—which include the wiring, hubs and switches, file servers, networking software, and labor to create each LAN—is $12.3 million. Birmingham’s share: less than $3 million.

“There’s just no way we could do this project without the eRate,” Wasmund said.

Each building will be connected to the central district office via leased T1 lines, and the district office will be connected to the Alabama State Supercomputer Authority for internet access through a leased T3 line.

The data lines for the district’s WAN cost $70,000 per month, plus a one-time installation charge of $164,000. Because the lines are leased, they are eligible for discount as a telecommunications service. Birmingham schools will save an additional $800,000.

Part of the overall plan

While eRate dollars can be spent on the cabling, hardware, and software for networks, they cannot be spent on personal computers, printers, or instructional and application software. The district’s technology budget includes $2,150,000 to pay for items that are ineligible for eRate funds, including teacher training, Wasmund said.

The eRate projects are part of a four-year, $48,166,000 technology initiative, which includes $30 million from the state’s Capital Improvement Plan.

The first impact in the city’s public schools will be the addition of an internet access lab on each campus. The labs will contain workstations, printers, and scanners—complete multimedia set-ups dedicated to internet use, Wasmund said.

Each teacher also will gain use of a personal computer in the first phase of the initiative. The subsequent three phases will add three computers per classroom.

Work on the eRate projects will begin quickly, Wasmund said. In anticipation of the grant being awarded, the Birmingham Board of Education already has hired vendors and contractors to do the necessary electrical and infrastructure work.