Robust and consistent use of technology to enhance learning has been a goal of many school districts for years, but adequate funding to provide equitable access to technology and broadband for all students has been a challenge. The COVID-19 pandemic necessitated the use of 1:1 technology for all students and resulted in an unprecedented allocation of relief funds for education and technology funding in particular. Through the American Rescue Plan (ARP), $122 billion is becoming available to K-12 schools, in addition to $13.2 billion through the March 2020 CARES Act and $54 billion through the December 2020 COVID Relief Package.
As school districts plan to use these new funds to bolster their existing technology and related systems, it is important that they develop a plan that takes full advantage of new funding available now and typical funding in the future. Districts rely on roadmaps to achieve both long-term educational technology learning goals and long-term departmental information technology and infrastructure goals. Districts also need to document strategies to maintain the technology plans and programs, activities, and partnerships when this funding runs out over the next three years.
This toolkit is designed to provide digestible bits of information for consideration as districts move through the planning process. We realize that each school district and learning community is different. We developed this toolkit with input from Verizon Innovative Learning Schools partner districts, and incorporated our own knowledge as former school district IT leaders, representing decades of experience, to serve as a source of inspiration and insight for planning.
Ultimately, districts will need to develop plans that leverage current funding to realize long-term goals, like equitable access to devices and transformative instructional practices that result in significant student outcomes. Districts also need to plan for the funding cliff when COVID Relief funds are no longer available. It would be short-sighted of school districts to spend the relief money on end-user devices and hotspots that will degrade over time, but ignore professional learning for staff on how to transform their practices with technology. Planning for sustainability requires using funds to create a runway to support work that starts now and will continue in the future.
What are your budget limits and new funding sources coming in?
Review the learning goals of your district—how will the role of technology assist in reaching those goals?
Assess what you already have in place—what’s working and what’s not?
What are your plans for growing technology in your district? What modernizing trends should you consider?
How will you work with other departments to generate the best technology solutions for everybody?
Have you considered not only the purchases, but maintenance and repair of the items you are considering purchasing? Have you considered the people-power it will take to support the technology?
Plan with sustainability in mind. What kinds of software, hardware, and systems can you put in place to make sure all products are supported throughout their lifecycle?
When will your current technology be replaced? What new additions need to be included in future planning and what current technology could be sunset?
Plan with the end of the year in mind by thinking about preparation, distribution, and collection of devices. What other systems will you develop for wellness checks on the devices?
What will you measure to show the value of the investments your district has made? How will you report this information to key stakeholders, decision makers, and the general community?
Keeping your Board of Education informed about the looming funding cliff and sharing your plan to mitigate the risk of going over the cliff will show forethought and proactivity on your part.
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