Converge, January 1999, p. 34
After many schools in Wisconsin discovered they weren’t eligible for E-Rate funding, the state began its own funding program to help connect the state’s schools to the Internet.
The Wisconsin Technology for Educational Achievement (TEACH) program earmarked half a billion dollars of state funds to help bring computers and connections to Wisconsin’s schools and libraries.
The program subsidizes half of schools’ spending on wiring and network connections, and also offers cheap data and video connections to BadgerNet, a statewide video, voice, and data network that connects colleges, schools, and state government agencies.
As a result of the program, growing numbers of schools have been able to establish distance learning programs to bring advanced placement and foreign language instruction to schools that otherwise would be unable to offer such courses. Native American students have achieved a greater sense of belonging by connecting with other schools in the state through BadgerNet.
Technology & Learning, February 1999, p. 54
Here are five innovative ways school districts are successfully funding their technology initiatives:
- Form a non-profit foundation. The Fair Haven School District in New Jersey created a foundation that awards teachers “mini-grants” valued up to $1,000. But forming a foundation isn’t always quick and easyeven with support from volunteers and members of the community, the foundation still took more than six months to launch. And you have to be careful to avoid fundraising conflicts with the PTA and other groups at your school.
- Think of creative ways to raise dollars. Officials in Clark Country, Nev., have looked beyond mere corporate donations to fund their technology initiatives. Their tactics included partnering with a semi-pro hockey team, hosting fundraising dinners, conducting membership drives, and even selling greeting cards
- Aggressively pursue corporate sponsors. An intermediate school in Brooklyn, N.Y., transformed its aging and obsolete computer lab into a cutting-edge center by partnering with Sun Microsystems to create a demonstration lab in their school. The school has also forged partnerships for teacher training and support.
- Join a consortium. The combined purchasing and fundraising power of a consortium allowed the rural Keystone Central district in Pennsylvania to acquire nearly 2,000 computers and provide Internet access at deeply discounted rates to its community.
- Apply for grants. This has been the winning recipe at the Governor Mifflin school district in Pennsylvania, which also created its own foundation arm. Grant writing is still a great way to obtain funding. As soon as teachers get an idea for equipment and projects, you should start applying for grants. The more aggressive you are, the more likely you will get funding. And be sure to share winning ideas and proposals so you can learn from what works.
Education Week, January 27, 1999, p. 7
The superintendent for Fairfax County, Va., came under fire when the budget he submitted to the school board cut $8 million in new technology funding from the amount officials had initially planned.
Parents, members of the business community, and other stakeholders criticized the move in this suburban Washington district, which is laden with technology and telecommunications companies.
The superintendent’s plan would reduce from 8,000 to 5,500 the number of new computers purchased, and would cut back on staff training as well.
Electronic School, January 1999, p. A10
Most schools and districts have made large strides in initial fundraising efforts, but many neglect to think about how to sustain funding in the long-term.
Here are five core barriers to fundraising that you must contend with:
- Resistance to new taxes to pay for education technology
- High levels of competition among districts for the same scarce funds
- Too few people on your fundraising staff
- Restrictions on funds targeted for specific programs or student income levels
- Lack of funds that can pay for tech support and maintenance staff
Even when technology dollars are built into budgets, you’ll still have a lot of ongoing costs associated with technology.
Experts advise aggressively applying for grants and forging business partnerships with high-tech corporations and service providers. Another good funding source is “certificates of participation,” which offer low-discount loans to districts based on real estate collateral. Local districts can also expect to see increased funding from state legislatures trying to create equity and uniform technology standards across their state.
Electronic School, January 1999, p. A14
Some schools have solved the technology funding problem by starting up for-profit ISP companies whose revenues support their schools.
By selling Internet access to their communities, schools are able to pay for the costs of providing Internet access to their students and teachers. Some schools launch ISPs that make enough profit to fund additional technology equipment, while others are designed to break even with their Internet access costs.<
But before you rush out and start up an ISP at your school, consider these expert tips from those who have been there:
- Make sure there’s community demand. You don’t want to become an ISP if your community is already well-served by a number of different Internet service providers. Rural and small-town locations are most ideally suited, provided you have enough of a subscriber base. And if your community is too large, demand could outstrip your ability to meet it.
- Get tech experts. You won’t be able to start your own ISP without in-house computer and networking experts who can help manage the ISP’s operations. People with a technology and business background would be best.
- Watch for legal pitfalls. You must consult with a lawyer before forming any kind of for-profit enterprise on school property to ensure that you’re not breaking any laws. This area of the law is gray, but with advice from a lawyer, you should be able to navigate around any pitfalls.
- Get help from students. To help support the customer demands on an ISP, you’ll need to enlist the help of your students. This provides an invaluable experience for them in technology and an actual business that will better prepare them for a high-tech job market.
Education Week, February 17, 1999, p. 34
Most of the federal aid for education technology comes from Title III of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which includes the Technology Literacy Challenge Fund. Congress and the Clinton administration intend to make several changes to the ESEA this year that would offer greater support for education technology.
For one, there may be an effort to give schools who receive technology grants more discretion as to how they spend this aid by consolidating the number of existing technology grant programs and creating broader requirements. The Education Department also intends to propose that more of the challenge fund be set aside for poor students. There will also be a greater focus on making technology accessible to rural schools.
In addition, there will also be a push to provide greater funding for teacher training to help better integrate technology into classrooms. The Clinton administration will propose that at least 30 percent of the money in the challenge fund go to technology training for teachers.
Converge, February 1999, p. 46
Deborah Aufdenspring and Mark Morrison of the New Technology High School (NTHS) in California offer tips on how to establish a technology use policy that is effective without limiting students’ ability to learn.
The authors offer three tips on how to create a policy that does not merely discipline students, but that includes student input and creates what they call a “culture of trust.”
- Student participation. Get students to appreciate effective and responsible technology use by making them part of the solution. Choose students to help work on the schools computer systems to give them a sense of responsibility and an appreciation for the rules that are in place.
- Education. Instead of merely constructing rules that may ultimately limit learning, educate students about acceptable uses of technology. For example, instead of filtering out Internet sites deemed inappropriate for students, NTHS students are trusted to use the Internet responsibly, with teachers encouraging them to make independent judgments about what they see.
- Policy writing. Include students and staff in policy writing to create a sense of student ownership and pride in the policy. In making the policy, be sure to research what students think about responsible uses of technology and their opinions on the practices that are acceptable and unacceptable.
Education Week, February 3, 1999, p. 8
Chicago public school officials predict that the implementation of their new timekeeping system will save them $2.6 million a year by reducing payroll errors and wasted staff time.
This new system offer a number of features that were not available with previous versions. For one, there will be a single, central payroll server available on a network instead of the hundreds of individual databases that existed with the old system.
In addition to limiting costly errors, this system will also provide managers greater access to information on everything from budgets to employee attendance. And unlike the previous system, which could only keep timecard information for two weeks, this newer model tracks the information for two years.
The $3 million dollar system was designed by Kronos Inc. of Waltham, Mass. and is only employed by roughly 100 other school districts. The system should be fully operational by the beginning of the next school year.
Education Week, February 17, 1999, p. 18
GreatSchools.net, a web site launched a year ago by a non-profit group of the same name, is an example of one of the many recent sites that offer communities more information about their schools and the quality of education they provide.
GreatSchools.net includes data on roughly 300 public schools in California’s San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. In profiling each school, GreatSchools.net draws on available state data as well as the answers principals provide to 15 questions that address issues such as safety, teaching, curriculum, and leadership.
GreatSchools.net is currently in the process of updating its profiles to create a more structured rating system. In the future, GreatSchools.net will survey schools’ parents and teachers, and make a one-day visit to the school to observe its atmosphere and climate. The information garnered through these activities will be combined with state data to come up with ratings for the school in the categories of “performance,teaching, learning environment, and leadership.”
Schools will either be ranked “acceptable,” exemplary,” or “needs improvement” in each area. A one-page description of the school and its programs will also be provided. <
Foundations currently support GreatSchools.net. However, in the future they hope that selling sponsorships of school profiles will become their primary source of funding. They also intend to provide their services to six additional California counties in the coming year.
Converge, February 1999, p. 76
Many grantwriters who apply for large technology grants fail to establish how they will implement the grant if they receive it. Here are four suggestions on how to effectively develop a long-term strategy that will take you from the proposal stage to the full implementation of the grant.
- Research your options. Begin to develop a vision for what you want to accomplish with a grant by researching on the Internet or by contacting a consultant.
- Start small. Do not begin your program by focusing on the goals of the school as a whole. Instead, begin implementing your program and establishing goals for the individual departments or grades in your school. Later, broaden the scope of your program to include goals that address schoolwide issues.
- Teamwork. Building consensus will be easier if you pick a small team to be in charge of planning and writing the grant. Have this group present their work to the faculty as a whole to get their opinions.
- Spend money effectively. Once you receive a grant, purchasing new hardware alone will not ensure successful implementation. Consideration must also be given to staff training, support, and software. It is suggested that 30 percent of the grant be used to train staff members, 20 percent be used to buy software and the remaining 50 percent be dedicated to hardware purchases.