Already tasked with providing equitable access to digital learning, schools have been asked to ensure continuity of learning for all students and situations. With state and local revenues likely to decline, funding these mandates becomes an even greater challenge.
Schools can consider federal programs to help fund the information system infrastructure including connectivity, devices, and services needed to enable successful digital learning outcomes. Two specific programs provide the basis for funding and are a worthwhile time investment for you to determine the benefits to your school:
- U.S. CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security)
Congress passed the stimulus package (CARES act) which includes $13.5 billion for K-12 districts and will be distributed based on Title I-A funds to local education agencies. There is wide latitude on how these funds can be utilized and school systems can leverage these funds for foundation technology to ensure equity and access. School Systems may also consider leveraging CARES Act funding to cover the school/district’s portion of E-Rate-covered network upgrades and support.
- E-Rate 2021: (FCC program leveraging the Universal Service Fund)
E-Rate changes in effect for the 2021 cycle provide school systems an opportunity to update connectivity at previously neglected school sites. For the 2021–2025 E-Rate cycle, school districts will receive one budget and can use the money on the facilities they choose. Schools will have access to a pool of funds to refresh components that are 5+ years old. Schools/Districts will receive a fixed budget to be used between 2021 and 2025.
The CARES Act and E-Rate program provide opportunities to fund the procurement, implementation, and maintenance of key technology systems. The focus is directed towards goals of enabling equitable digital learning both inside and outside of school buildings. Schools and districts should consider assessing the capabilities of their network to meet digital learning requirements and goals. A plan should be developed to address the most immediate gaps in access, connectivity, and security while developing a 5-year plan to leverage E-Rate to refresh systems as they become eligible.
Peters & Associates has extensive experience and expertise in providing comprehensive technology assessments and 5-year plans for K – 12 institutions. Let us help you get the technology your schools needs now, and create a plan for your future. To learn more contact us.