School operating budgets provide stable financing for ongoing purchases and support. However, school budgets are tight and programs—including technology programs and technology support staff—may be cut in some schools. It is important to consider alternatives to funding and to plan not only for initial costs but also for long-term maintenance and replacement costs to facilitate sustainability.
Research to Practice
Technology is not an end in itself but instead involves a set of tools to foster engaged learning environments and increase student outcomes; successful funding clearly supports a higher purpose than simply the acquisition of hardware and equipment. As a team, you will need to develop a plan to support the costs associated with implementing and maintaining technology in your district and school buildings. Districts and schools are finding creative solutions to the funding question, including leasing equipment, phasing in computing devices over time to spread out the cost of purchasing devices, selecting devices with lower initial costs, and making use of BYOD. Some districts have secured funding through a bond voted on by the community or have raised money through fundraisers sponsored by the PTO/PTA, and others have worked with companies to finance the costs of new technology devices. Any requested funding should clearly link technology to the bigger picture of teaching and learning. Ultimately, when exploring budgeting options, it is important to be creative, engage numerous stakeholders, and develop a multiyear plan for financing technology needs.
Review your existing budget
- Review your existing operating budget and consider how your current budget can be altered to support ongoing implementation efforts.
- Determine how technology could eliminate existing costs –technology can render existing processes and tools obsolete, freeing up funds to pay for new technology.
- Remember that schools can also use assistive technology labs in local education agencies (which make technology available for schools throughout the district).
- Leverage existing federal funds for technology-related costs.
Tip: Ideas for freeing up funding to support new technologies are: 1) getting rid of copy machines (and related supplies and contracts); 2) eliminating dedicated computer lab;, and 3) replacing expensive commercially licensed textbooks with openly licensed educational resources.
Determine actual costs for tech purchases and upgrades
- Consider accepting donated technology from parents, organizations, and companies.
- Consider funding the purchase of new technology devices and/ or upgrading of the network infrastructure with a grant and then build maintenance and repair/ service costs and professional learning costs into the district’s or school’s operating expenses.
- Partner with other districts, local, and county governments to share technology infrastructure and technical staff to keep costs down and taking advantage of economies of scale when building and purchasing broadband access.
- Consider purchasing green technology that will be more sustainable and save on energy costs over time.
Tip: Determine who will benefit from the technology-related costs and see if the department benefiting would be willing to include the cost in their budget to get the work done more efficiently and effectively.
Identify funds to meet short-term and long-term goals
- Look for funds in the existing budget, as well as in technology bonds, grants, and partnerships with companies and organizations.
- Explore the different ways in which technology integration supports programs for students receiving special education services, English language learners, and students in Title I programs, and then refine your existing budgets to include technology use to achieve program goals and outcomes.
- Align your technology implementation goals with the goals of other school-wide initiatives so you can integrate the costs of technology to support other program goals.
- Rethink the role of your staff to help sustain technology-related funds. Many schools are now expanding the role of librarians to technology-related responsibilities or sharing leadership responsibilities so students can share expensive resources.
- Remember to include indirect costs (like user training and handling problems) and savings in your budget planning (identify and summarize these costs with CoSN’s free Project Cost Estimator).
Develop a multiyear plan to support sustainability of technology costs
- Plan for costs ranging from new device allocation and upgrading the school infrastructure’s connectivity and access points to professional learning and funds to support repairs and/or the replacement of devices.
- Share multi-year plan to get buy-in from teachers, parents, and students.
- Make information available to stakeholders; if stakeholders view technology implementation as an experiment—with only short-term goals and short-term budget allocations—they are less likely to invest in the professional learning and expend the extra effort initially required to yield success.
- Build a strong relationship between the Chief Technology Officer and Chief Financial Officer to ensure all decision makers are willing to support your shared vision.
- Leverage existing technologies to connect students with learning online learning opportunities.
- Continue to review and refine your budget as needed.
Tip: Professional learning workshops that focus on integrating technology into instruction, and integrating evidence-based teaching strategies into content areas such as reading, writing, and mathematics, can be funded through professional development dollars linked with curriculum and content area development.
CoSN’s Smart IT Strategic Technology Planning and Management
2017 National Education Technology Plan Update