At the height of the pandemic, K – 12 district leaders had to make tech purchasing decisions on the fly. They invested in solutions that were available to get students and staff online to preserve the continuity of learning.
Government relief funds rolled out to support these ed tech initiatives. The multiple rounds of ESSER funding, the Emergency Connectivity Fund and other grants helped some schools make necessary purchases.
With so many options for available funding, K – 12 leaders and IT decision-makers should keep these best practices in mind when planning their budgets this year and evaluating new streams of funding that may come their way.
MORE ON EDTECH: Why should schools prioritize updates to legacy technology?
Evaluate Tech’s Usefulness Carefully to Ensure Compliance
With each new announcement of funding comes new deadlines and regulations on how schools can spend it. ECF, for example, came with a lot of compliance guidelines for districts to follow.
While government funds allocated toward a certain goal can benefit districts, they need to be careful when purchasing tech solutions. If the technology doesn’t check all the necessary boxes, the school won’t be allowed to use the funding toward it. This could mean reworking the budget yet again to account for a shortfall.
To avoid this, carefully evaluate what will be useful for the students and staff within the district and keep track of how the technology provides for that. Data analytics can help schools prove the technology’s usefulness in the event of an audit.
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Bring All Parties to the Table for District Purchasing Decisions
When it comes to budgeting, there are many ways schools can use the money at their disposal to support education. They might use their budget for new Chromebooks, for new interactive panels or even for a new roof on the building. This can lead to cross-department conflict over who needs the money more.
DIVE DEEPER: Schools can allot ESSER funds to revamp transportation tech.
Bringing all parties to the table ensures all voices are heard when decisions are made. It also makes sure everyone is on the same page. This can help different departments within the district address questions or criticism on the use of public funding.
Because parents and community members can see how the school spends public funds, careful consideration of spending by all departments allows the school leaders to report back to the community.
Invest Funds in Future Proofing K – 12 Districts
Examine the organization’s priorities and look for areas where funding can support a lasting investment. Future proofing the technology within the district can help IT leaders make decisions on budgeting and tech purchases down the road.
Tech upgrades, like moving to Wi-Fi 6 or Windows 11 or investing in the next generation Chromebook, can help a district more easily integrate changes in the future.
Another way to future proof with the funds that are available now is to invest in services. Partners like CDW • G can help districts with their new ed tech purchases, from initial scoping to lifecycle management of devices.
If schools invest in upgraded flat panels for the front of every classroom, or a phone conference system or new projectors, they need to consider the services involved in deploying and managing those devices. Frequently, K – 12 IT teams do not have the manpower to rewire networking cables or support installations on a large scale.
Business continuity plans can also help districts prepare for the impending funding cliff. Planning against federal funding deadlines, as well as traditional funding deadlines, is crucial to ensuring districts get the most out of their pandemic-era budgets.
This article is part of the “ConnectIT: Bridging the Gap Between Education and Technology”Series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using the #ConnectIT hashtag.