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« Getting the most from your tech dollar 9: supporting 16mm film | Main | BFTP: The Technology Agnostic »
Sunday
May292011

Getting the most from your tech dollar 8: Maximize your E-rate funding

Over the next few days, I'll be addressing some strategies school districts use to get the most from their technology dollars. See the full list hereAny budget stretching strategies you're willing to share?

8. Maximize your E-rate funding

For the past dozen years, E-rate (aka the Universal Service Fund), has made a major contribution in helping many school districts, including ours, pay their technology bills. Administered by the Federal Communications Commission, a tax on telephone services is distributed to school districts on a formula based on Free and Reduced Price Lunch rates. Applications, regulations, and allowable services are all rather byzantine and make federal income tax guidelines seem like Dick and Jane in comparison.

Given the amount of money involved and the complexity in properly obtaining and using these dollars, I would recommend:

  • Using an E-rate consultant. Like a good tax preparer, a reliable E-rate consultant will help make sure you apply for all the services for which you are eligible, prepare the documentation completely and in a timely manner, and help answer any auditing questions that might arise. Our consultant has earned her fees many times over.
  • Working with regional telecommunication consortia. A number of our services are purchased through a regional consortium who then becomes the E-rate applicant. Again, the consortium has expertise that the local district may not - as well as increased buying clout.
  • Saving everything. In case your district is audited (and to keep from scrambling every year to find documentation for the application), keep all service contracts, all communications from the Schools and Libraries Division, and any reports related to school demographics, public hearings and other requirements. I keep mine in accordion folders, all clearly labeled by year. Everything.
  • Taking the process seriously. There are very strict deadlines and documentation for submitting applications and documentation for E-rate. Rules change on a yearly basis. Make E-rate a priority, read all updates, and attend any training offered by your state or region on E-rate rules. Respond quickly and completely if questioned by the SLD. 
  • Lobbying your U.S. Representative and Senators. This is one federal program that is worth letting your congressional delegation know is worth attention. It needs to stay solvent given the increased reliance education has on its networks and telecommunication infrastructure. And the program benefits ALL schools.

In my 20 years experience in educational technology, E-rate is the only sign that the federal goverment truly cares about telecommunications in schools. Don't miss out on the one good think out of Washington. 

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Reader Comments (2)

That is a truly inappropriate poster to append to an education-related website. Or any website.

What message does that send to the girls in your classrooms, and the women in your district?

I'm appalled.

June 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJody

Hi Jody,

This blog is written for adults, not children.

Doug

June 2, 2011 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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