Evaluate Available Funding - Verizon Innovative Learning Schools

Evaluate Available Funding

Evaluate Available Funding

Through the American Rescue Plan (ARP), $122 billion became available to K-12 schools, on top of $13.2 billion through the March 2020 CARES Act and $54 billion through the December 2020 COVID Relief Package. In addition to these funds, state revenues did not fall as dramatically as expected, so local budgets are relatively healthy, Federal Title funds are available, and grant opportunities exist.

With the end of the COVID 19 funds, schools will need new ways to ensure digital equity while implementing sustainable programming. In many ways, the 2024-25 school year is the new reality of school funding for many districts, after four years of relief funds come to an end. Looking ahead, this is an opportunity to invest meaningfully in sustainable systems that will carry schools through the next 10 years.

While technology will change, needs likely won’t. Be mindful that budget and programming plans don’t create financial cliffs 3-5 years from now.

The Needs

Ensure all students have access to working devices, both at school and at home. While remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic created a demand for devices and systems, the need for a device for each student didn’t go away when students returned to in-classroom learning. In fact, the digital equity and learning divides that emerged during the pandemic have increased the need for schools to provide programming to fill those gaps.

Ensure teachers and students have reliable, high-speed access in schools. A device for each student only takes them so far when the majority of learning is through online platforms and tools, even in school. Education Superhighway outlines two targets districts and schools should strive toward for in-person teaching, learning, and operations:

  • An external internet connection to the Internet Service Provider (ISP) of at least 100 Mbps per student.
  • Internal Wide Area Network (WAN) connections from the district to each school and among schools within the district of at least 10 Mbps per student.

Ensure all students have reliable, high-speed access outside of school. Even with in-person learning, the “homework gap” will remain because often students go home to insufficient or nonexistent internet access. With the ending of the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) in the spring of 2024, many low-income households are losing discounted broadband service. The loss of the ACP funding, along with the end of the COVID Relief funds, is creating significant challenges for learners and widening the digital equity gap, as students are losing funding support both at home and at school. This is why E-Rate has been expanded to enable schools and libraries to provide telecommunications, connective devices and other eligible equipment to students, teachers, and library patrons for internet use at home or at other locations outside of the school or library.

Funding Resources

When building your long-range plans, consider multiple funding sources and whether the sources are renewable. This is especially significant as schools grapple with the reality of losing multiple funding sources at the same time, including:

  • March 2021 American Rescue Plan (ESSER)
  • Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBB)
  • Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP)
  • Emergency Connectivity Fund
  • December 2020 ESSER II Fund (CRRSA/COVID Relief Act)
  • March 2020 ESSER I Fund (CARES Act)
  • State and Local COVID Relief Funds

As schools enter the post-COVID funding era for the 2024-25 school year, they must return to their traditional funding sources, including:

General Budgets

The funding sources enacted since March 2020 primarily addressed the additional costs created by the pandemic and its impact on schools. They were not designed to fill in pre-existing budget gaps, so general district budgets will still be responsible for the majority of day-to-day costs of running a school system.


Many districts and schools leverage grants to supplement budgets. Federal grants like the Elementary and Secondary Education Act Funds (ESEA amended by ESSA) may be fully enacted and planned out to meet the needs. Beyond Title I-A, there are other authorized ESEA programs that provide funding support for technology initiatives and professional learning. This includes Title II, IIIA, IV-A, IV-B, among others. Also, through programs like Verizon Innovative Learning, schools are outfitted with devices and connectivity. The best grants encourage recipients to outline their long-term sustainability from Day 1 to ensure the assets and learning acquired during the grant period turn into catalysts for long-term, self-sustaining changes.


For almost 30 years, schools have relied on the E-Rate program to provide internet access and networking connectivity.

Successful school districts have taken time to review all funding sources, evaluating:

  • what the money can be spent on,
  • the duration of the source,
  • to what expenses they may assign the funds, and
  • how the funding fits in with the overall spending of the school district.

There is no better time to build cross-functional partnerships while breaking down departmental silos and consider the overall budget in the district than when making long-term plans for spending.

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