Successful Strategies for Saving & Securing Technology Funding
The greatest change in schools in the last two decades, without a doubt, has been the onset of technology within districts and campuses. While few would argue that institutions have not benefited from increased technology access, school systems have had to scramble to come up with the funds necessary to support and sustain the ever-changing aspects of technology implementation in public education. While locating funding for technology can be a challenge, financial support can often be found if a school district searches in both conventional and unconventional places.
One of the most beneficial strategies that a school system can employ when trying to secure technology funding is to involve the community in its mission and goals. The Beaufort County School District in South Carolina was faced with a dilemma concerning school technology funding as the community had evolved into one with a large retirement population. This population defeated all attempts to secure technology funding through tax increases at each election. Beaufort’s school enrollment was continuing to rise because of younger adults moving in for job availability in the growing services industry, so the district had to convince the older population of the need for additional technology funds.
District officials decided that the best way to engage the retirement population was to show them firsthand what was taking place in the schools and how technology was a key factor in learning. Officials approached residents of one of the largest retirement communities in the area and asked them to volunteer in the schools. This capitalized on their different areas of expertise while exposing them to the needs of the schools in which they were serving. It also brought about a dramatic change in attitude, which has led to Beaufort County approving two referendums for $120 million each during the last eight years (Brooks-Young 2003). Clearly, if a district wants to secure funds from the surrounding community, its needs must be made known personally to different demographics of the community.
Another way to save available funds, if not secure them, is to involve the students in some of the technology support areas where a district might otherwise hire outside maintenance. Students can be valuable in helping to run network wiring and maintain school Web sites, among other facets of technology support and maintenance. Relying on students for technology support frees up funds, which might have been used for these services, to go toward more challenging goals such as computer hardware and software purchases and upgrades. This trend is catching on in many districts and should continue in order to maximize available free resources. It is also excellent peer assistance learning for students. Two goals are being met at once: students are helping keep technology costs down while learning valuable skills for the future.
The No Child Left Behind Act has implications in relation to technology funding, and school systems need to be aware of the new policy standards and guidelines to maximize eligibility for funding. Thereare opportunities for both using and funding technology through different programs and requirements mandated by NCLB. An example of one such opportunity would be school-parent communication, which has more than 40 provisions in the act. In addition, two training areas that are addressed in NCLB - paraprofessional training and state teacher certification - can be positively affected by technology through the use of online classes and staff development. These are only two of several ways that creative district officials can use NCLB to show a need for increased technology funding (Blaschke 2003).
Valuable Online Resources
Finally, school district technology officials need to use the resources they proclaim. The Internet has a wealth of information on wise budgeting in relation to school districts and technology. One such Web site, maintained by the Consortium for School Networking, is called "Taking TCO to the Classroom" (http://classroomtco.cosn.org), which has just about everything a technology coordinator needs to make the most of the budgeting process, including a concise checklist for technology budgeting. This is only one of many valuable resources that tech coordinators can access to give their school districts the edge in obtaining and sustaining the funds necessary to keep up with the ever-changing face of tomorrow’s technology trends.
Blaschke, C. 2003. "10 Technology Funding Sources in NCLB." T.H.E. Journal (May).
Brooks-Young, S. 2003. "Funding Success Stories." Technology & Learning Magazine (June).
This article originally appeared in the 01/01/2004 issue of THE Journal.