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Funding Survival Toolkit | Analysis

How Have Washington's Budget Battles Affected Ed Tech Grants?

Despite the government shutdown and ongoing fiscal conflicts, federal funds are still flowing to districts.

Lately, all eyes have been on Washington DC, watching the government in turmoil. During the recent shutdown, nearly 90 percent of the United States Department of Education — about 4,000 people — was furloughed. Rumors abounded about the impact on schools around the country.

You must be wondering whether the shutdown and ensuing budget battles will lead to any changes in federal funding for your institutions. Will you still get any money? Will disbursements be delayed? Even though federal monies account for only about 10 percent of the funding for your programs, they are very important for your technology purchases.

The biggest pots of federal funds — Title I, special education, and career and technical education — amount to approximately $27 billion. As we all know, this money is normally distributed in October and November. The good news is that the few employees left at ED did their best to get these funds out on time.

There are several competitions in progress that are supposed to award funds by Dec. 31. These include Invest in Innovation grants (i3), Race to the Top–Early Learning Challenge, Race to the Top–District grants, and Promise Neighborhood grants. These programs are funded by 2013 dollars that need to be spent by Dec. 31. We can only hope that ED will be up to speed in time to make this happen.

Before the shutdown in Washington even began, many grants had been announced that were either distributed on time by the skeleton crew in ED or will be distributed soon. These grants include the following:

  • The Carol M. White Physical Education Program, which awards $32 million to local education agencies (including school districts, county offices, charter schools, etc.) for nutrition and physical education. There are some exciting digital solutions and technologies to help in these areas that you may be involved with.
  • The Charter School Grants for Planning, Program Design, Implementation and Dissemination provide 17 grants totaling $2.8 million. There are many opportunities for technologies in each of these schools.
  • $13.3 million in five-year School Leadership Program grants went to 20 projects to support principal development. One of the technology aspects here is that these administrators must improve their use of school-based data to develop turnaround practices and track student achievement.
  • 27 school districts in 12 states received $89.8 million in Magnet School Assistance Program grants. Multiple technology plays will be included in these grants.
  • Under the Native American Career and Technical Education Program, $14 million in grants was distributed to 31 Native American and Alaskan Native entities to improve career and technical education programs. These populations need STEM skills to help them succeed in careers.
  • The Supporting Effective Educators Development grants are designed to provide effective professional development to improve teacher and principal quality. There were only six awards made for a total of nearly $30 million, but if you work with any of these entities, you and your schools may benefit by accessing the PD that was funded by these grants.
  • The Impact Aid program awarded $20 million to eight school districts in Alaska, Arizona, California, Montana, South Dakota, and Washington. Don't forget that there is a specific program called the Impact Aid Discretionary Construction Program that helps upgrade school facilities to 21st century infrastructure.

With the impasse resolved and federal workers back at their jobs, ED has taken up the business at hand, which includes the following:

  • The department has a number of applications for its Race to the Top–District competition, which were due Oct. 3 despite the shutdown. These grants will total $120 million.
  • The National Association of Federally Impacted Schools will push the department to deliver grants for its 33 members who sent in early payment requests while the government was closed.
  • With the reinstatement of the FCC's electronic filing system, E-Rate proceedings have resumed.

So, take heart! Despite the government shutdown, federal monies have flowed and will continue to flow to districts around the country.

About the Author

Jenny House is principal of Red Rock Reports, which offers the K-12 technology and services community information on funding and funding trends.

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