Like many school districts around the country, D.C. Everest (WI) Area School District purchased a hodgepodge of edtech devices over time to meet the needs of our growing student population, teachers, and available budgets.
Four years ago, a study of inventory found that we were close to having one device per student for our K-12 district of more than 6,000 students, yet the way our tech had been purchased didn’t create an equitable environment. We had desktop computers, laptops, and tablets from various manufacturers. Consequently, while one classroom had its own tablets, another would have to use desktops in a lab.
Our uneven learning environment was difficult to manage, expensive to maintain, and challenging to train teachers. When devices had reached the end of their useful life—typically every six to eight years—we would contact a recycler to haul the devices away. On a rare occasion we’d get a little money for parts or a stray device that still held value.
I knew there had to be a better way to give students the learning environment they needed, and I found it in financing tech devices.
Financing to the rescue
School districts use financing to purchase all kinds of important items, from buses to buildings, so it seemed logical to finance devices in order to achieve the kind of learning environment we want for our students and teachers.
Today, our streamlined edtech environment includes an iPad for every student and an iPad Pro or MacBook Pro for every teacher. Every classroom has a projector or a TV with Apple TV for Airplay capabilities.
Here are the five main reasons we decided to commit to one tech platform and to financing.
1. Financing gives us a predictable budget.
Traditionally, edtech purchases are treated as large capital expenditures. Financing gives districts a smaller, predictable budget for devices by spreading the cost of technology out over the term of the agreement, which is usually four years. Technology then becomes a planned expense—like water or electricity—not a “nice to have.” Including technology in the annual budget also smooths out the peaks and valleys of large technology refreshes. Since school operating costs are covered by taxes and other funding, yearly budgets shouldn’t be carried over. Without financing, a district our size would have to budget $5 million for new technology every five years. By financing, this budget is spread out over several years.
2. We make better purchasing decisions.
Financing forces districts to make purchases based on total cost of ownership, instead of purchasing the cheapest device. Devices that maintain a higher residual value actually cost less to finance and typically provide a better learning experience. When we were doing our research, we discovered this the hard way. We had just bought 300 Chromebooks for about $250 each and learned from our hardware trade-up partner that the devices were worth only about $50 each after the first year and were worthless nine months later. Our year-old iPads, on the other hand, maintained about 60 percent of their value and were still worth about $150 each the next year. Looking at these numbers, we realized we could finance new devices every three years and use the residual value of our devices to pay down the cost of our new fleet or buy additional equipment.