The district technology plan should discuss potential sources of funding for technology(1). In many districts, there is a mind set that the only sources of funds for technology are capital assets bonds, grants, or other special programs. These are the sources of funds that have been used during the innovative phase and reflect a classification of technology as "nice to have," not a "necessary" component of the education environment. As education transitions into the mainstream adoption of technology in schools, district decision-makers will need to identify the sources of steady, ongoing funding for technology. Outlining all potential sources of funding will assist in the transition from the innovation phase to the mainstream adoption.
These potential funding sources include:
To adequately prepare students for success in the 21st Century, districts will need to prioritize and reallocate general fund resources to support the action items contained in the technology plan. Technology can be used to accomplish some district tasks in a more cost effective manner, resulting in long term cost savings, for example, reduced paper and copying costs by shifting to electronic distribution of district memos.
Capital Asset Bonds
Capital asset bonds can be used to support the acquisition of technology and the costs associated with the installation of local area networks in the schools. The use of capital assets bonds for funding of equipment raises concerns. Such funding typically results in a large quantity of equipment acquired in a short period of time. If the district does not also make an equivalent level of commitment to training and professional development, much of this equipment will be unused or used infrequently. Because the district has acquired a large amount of equipment at one time, several years later, the district will be faced with a need for substantial upgrading or replacement. It is generally advisable to use capital assets funding to support the costs of networking and other more infrequent expenditures and use general funds for computer equipment.
Federal Block Grants
A portion of funds received from the Federal government through the following block grant programs can be used for technology: Title I ESEA, Chapter 2 ESEA, School-to-Work, Goals 2000, Eisenhower Professional Development, Even Start. The Federal Government has made it easier to use the funds from such programs for technology and is encouraging their use in such manner. The U.S. Department of Education's web site provides information on the source of federal resources for technology
The district may wish to ensure that every committee that is responsible for the development of programs and budgets funded through the federal programs include a representative from the technology committee. The technology committee may also wish to pay special attention to providing ongoing information resources to these program committees about how technology can be used to effectively accomplish their goals, for example, providing information to the school-to-work committee about innovative programs in other districts that are making use of technology. The district could go so far as to provide strong encouragement or a requirement for a percentage of the funds requested through these programs be dedicated to technology. Funds available through the Eisenhower Professional Development program can support professional development related to the use of technology.
Competitive Federal Grant and Business or Foundation Grant Programs
Federal competitive grant programs and business or foundation grant programs tend to be long shots. The district will want to establish guidelines for determining when it will devote staff resources to the preparation of such grant applications. Success with such grants appears to require 2 key attributes: a high level of innovation and strong partnerships, especially with the private sector. The biggest advantage of applying for such funding is that the application process itself generates interest and excitement within the district and generally results in a good plan for a project. Frequently, even though the grant is not awarded, the district and/or community manages to find local funding to accomplish the project.
Adult Lifelong Learning Programs
If the district is providing access to its technology to support adult learning programs, the fees charged should support the program and include a profit margin that is specifically dedicated to a district technology fund. The district can also participate in joint fund-raising activities with its adult lifelong learning collaborative partners. Targets for such fund-raising could be state programs for workforce quality and regional economic development. Local businesses who need a training facility for their employees may also be a source of funds.
Local Fund-raising Activities
Many schools have relied on local fund-raising activities to support their technology acquisitions. However, in districts where there are income disparities between the various school regions, such local fund-raising can cause inequities in between schools -- the schools in higher income areas have greater opportunity to raise funds, than do those in the lower income areas. (See discussion in Equity for strategies to address this.)
State Funds for Technology
Many states are providing state-level funding for technology. Some of these funds have been used the establish the state-wide education network, other funds have been distributed on a per student basis, and other funds have been awarded for innovative projects. The process of funding education differs between states, but it is likely that states will increasingly be expected to establish specific programs for funding technology in an attempt to equalize access to technology throughout the state.