School district leaders realize they cannot support today’s large and complex computer networks with small and/or undertrained staffs. In many cases, they are turning to outside contractors to provide this function.

But these outside contractors can be costly, even if in the long run they provide more efficient and effective services.

Here are some creative ways to find the money for this outsourcing:

  1. Set strict cost structures. For example, Dayton, Ohio, school officials wrote a contract in which their IT support payments decrease each year of a three-year deal.

  2. Redirect funds. The Detroit Public Schools took funds it paid to 85 employees and used them to fund a single-source IT contract. The winning contractor is doing the job (and more) for 10 percent to 15 percent less than the district was able to do.

  3. Tap into the eRate. Detroit also found that the eRate could pay for some related services, such as new networking that the contractors set up.

  4. Become partners with your contractors. New York City’s public schools have hired TekInsight to oversee their computer network. As TekInsight develops software and services to meet New York’s needs, it is expected to share some of the profits it receives from making those services available to other districts.

  5. Demand performance. Dayton also has identified timetables for specific deliverables that it expects from its contractor.