Technology Funding: A How-To Guide(2)

from Technology & Learning

Key factors to keep in mind when building your technology plan.

No funding organization wants to give away money to an institution with no vision. Nor should they. The only way to successfully and deservingly secure outside funding for technology is through a clear vision of how those educational technologies will be used within your classrooms and schools, and how those funds will jump start and support multiple school improvement initiatives within your district. With the above in mind, consider the following general guidelines for seeking sources of technology funds.

Possible Avenues for External Funding and Support

Many districts are stymied with what to do beyond their traditional funding strategies for technology. Schools traditionally set aside funding for educational technologies each year but are subject to some type of competitive process—inevitably there are more requests than there are funds available. While a wellwritten technology plan can outline and support a request, many districts are securing funds in other ways.

  • Technology Levies Although levies allocated specifically for technology do provide other avenues for support beyond grants and bonds, they also carry the same major drawback—they are one-time allocations for technology, regardless of the number of years they may span. If planned well, these funds can jump-start technology-based school improvement efforts and initiatives. Without long-range planning, however, they allow the district to put off determining how they will fund those initiatives beyond the scope and timeline of the levy.
  • Technology Fees An increasing number of school districts are charging a "technology fee" during enrollment, or within specific courses that heavily utilize technology, to help support the growing cost of maintaining technologies and related consumables. These fees vary tremendously depending on what they are designed to support.
  • Community, Group, and Partnership Donations Creating a greater sense of community can have its advantages, such as community, group, and partnership donations. Many of these groups hold fundraising activities throughout the academic year and are willing to support school improvement efforts. Most support the vision and benefits of educational technologies, and simply want to know their donations will go to a good cause. Donations can be anything from monetary hardware to professional development, depending upon the donor.
  • Hardware Typically, hardware is the main focus of technology funding, and includes computer workstations and peripherals such as scanners and printers. In many cases it also includes fileservers, backup systems, and other behind-the-scenes equipment. Although they can vary tremendously within projects and among school districts, hardware costs should make up approximately 50 percent of the overall technology expenditures.
  • Professional Development Technology-based professional development funding should be tied into the overall professional development program, but should not be bound by it. It is also a critical component of the overall funding process, as it is most often overlooked or underestimated by schools and districts. More projects are apt to fail and the blame placed on the technology itself, when the actual culprit is poor or inattentive planning. For every $10 typically spent on hardware, you should expect to spend another $5 on professional development for the hardware and software, accounting for 25 percent of the total budget allocated for technology funding.
  • Software Software most often includes packages at the workstation level, but should also include those at the server level, like networking software and backup software. Traditionally, for every $10 you spend on hardware, you should expect to spend an additional $3 on software for that hardware—approximately 15 percent of your total budget.
  • Maintenance and Support Services Don't overlook the looming fact that technology in schools is often outdated the very moment it is installed. What's worse, technology will inevitably break down and need repairs. So we can define maintenance and support services as the repairs, upgrades, and services required to keep existing technologies in viable working order throughout a reasonable lifespan. For every $10 spent on hardware, expect to spend an additional $2 on maintenance and support services, or roughly 10 percent of the overall total budget allocated for technology funding.
  • Infrastructure When a bond, grant, levy, or any referendum funds new building projects or additions, it is important to include the cost of technology infrastructure in the overall cost of the project. It should also be assessed within any outstanding project, as major classroom alterations may be in order. Infrastructure can be loosely referred to as wiring (both network and electrical) and networking components (such as switches, hubs, and routers). A reasonable plan is to allow $1 (or possibly more, depending on the structure and age of your buildings) per square foot for technology infrastructure. This will usually cover the cost of wiring, switches, and routers, although careful inspection and attention to details is critical. Because infrastructure costs are so dependent on the current state and condition of the building, electrical status, composition of internal walls and ceilings, and multiple other factors, technology infrastructure is often set aside from the overall model of funding for technology.

Ken Brown is the vice president of innovation and technology at Sterling College in Sterling, Kansas. Prior to receiving his PhD in curriculum and instruction—with an emphasis in educational computing, design, and online learning—from Kansas State University, Ken served 18 years in K-12 education as a district-level technology coordinator.

Reprinted from Educator's E-Zine.