One of the biggest challenges for any school district looking to undertake a major fiber project is funding. Although the E-rate program provides substantial financial support, there is sometimes still a “gap” in funding that cannot be covered using the district’s existing operating/technology budget. The following is a selection of resources schools can use to try to bridge the funding gap.
In a number of states, Governors and State Legislators have appropriated funding specifically to support K-12 connectivity. Typically this grant funding is designed to be used to connect schools to higher speed broadband circuits to ensure they are equipped to handle online testing.
In addition to other state level funding, the Second E-rate Modernization provides an opportunity for districts to receive up to a 10% additional discount on special construction costs (Lit Service Special Construction, IRU or Self Construction) if a state also invests in the project. The E-rate match is a dollar for dollar match of funding a State or US Territory provides to the construction of an E-Rate eligible project. See the State Matching Fund page for more information.
Bonds are often used by school districts to raise additional funds to finance a building project or other capital project. A school bond must be voted on by members of the community in which the school is located. Requirements for bond measures are based on local and state rules.
In general, bond issues can be a good source of additional funding to cover the large one-off post-E-rate cost of a fiber project. However, getting a bond measure on the ballot is a lengthy and complex process that requires dedicated time and effort. Bond campaigns that aim to raise funds to support an upgrade should ensure that the money is earmarked for this particular project. The need for the upgrade should be clearly shared with the community in a compelling way, so that it resonates with voters who value the role that technology plays in improving educational outcomes in their community.
Because federal grants can be highly competitive, have long application processes, stringent eligibility requirements, and complicated rules and regulations, they might require hiring outside expertise to deliver. So although grants can be appealing, school districts should take the time to carefully consider whether to dedicate time and resources to the application process (or whether that time and cost would be better directed to the upgrade itself).
The lists below are only a summary aimed at providing a foundation for funding opportunities. Please check the websites listed for more information, including deadlines and detailed application requirements and procedures. School districts may also consider visiting grants.gov grants.gov to see a full list of federal grants.
|Type of Funding||Grant|
Impact Aid was designed to support local school districts with concentrations of children who reside on Indian lands, military bases, low-rent housing properties, and other federal properties, or who have parents in the uniformed services or employed on eligible federal properties.
School districts use Impact Aid for a wide variety of expenses including technology infrastructure upgrades.
|Funding and Eligibility Requirements||To be eligible for assistance a local school district must educate at least 400 such children in average daily attendance, or the federally connected children must make up at least 3% of the school district's total average daily attendance.|
|Type of Funding||Grant|
Grant-funding priorities include "supporting personalized learning." Awards are given in three different categories: Development, Validation, and Scale-up.
List of past grantees at http://www2.ed.gov/programs/innovation/2014applications.html
|Funding and Eligibility Requirements||Grantees must implement practices that are designed to improve student achievement or student growth, close achievement gaps, decrease dropout rates, increase high school graduation rates, or increase college enrollment and completion rates for high-need students. Must obtain matching funds or in-kind donations and grantees must participate in, organize, or facilitate, as appropriate, communities of practice for the i3 program.|
|Type of Funding||Grant|
Provides financial assistance to rural districts to assist them in meeting their state's definition of adequate yearly progress (AYP). Applicants do not compete but rather are entitled to funds if they meet basic eligibility requirements. Eligibility is restricted by statute. Awards are issued annually directly to eligible local educational agencies (LEAs) on a formula basis.
Recipients may use program funds to conduct activities under certain Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA programs). These programs include: Title II, Part D (Educational Technology State Grants, # 84.318), and Title IV, Part B (21st-Century Community Learning Centers, # 84.287), which may support the use of funds for technology and upgrades.
List of past awardees by state http://www2.ed.gov/programs/reapsrsa/grant14/index.html
|Funding and Eligibility Requirements||
The U.S. Department of Education provides a list of school districts that are eligible for the SRSA Program: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/reapsrsa/eligible14/index.html
To be eligible for REAP-Flex and for an SRSA grant, a school district must—
Have fewer than 600 students in average daily attendance during the prior school year, or serve only schools that are in counties with a population density of less than 10 persons per square mile; and Serve only schools that have a Federal NCES locale code of 7 or 8, or that are located in an area that meets the definition of 'rural' of a governmental agency of the State.
There are multiple non-governmental institutions that provide grants to public entities as part of their philanthropic mission. Grants are one-time infusions of cash into a district budget and are not generally a reliable or sustainable funding source; more often grants are made available for purchase of devices rather than for underlying services. We see relatively a limited scope for districts to utilize private grant funding to support fiber connectivity solutions.
George Lucas Educational Foundation: Edutopia - View Website
Updated weekly by Edutopia this website provides a roundup of educational grants, contests, awards, free toolkits, and classroom guides aimed at helping students, classrooms, schools, and communities.
The Foundation Center - View Website
The Foundation Center is a leading source of information about philanthropy worldwide and maintains a comprehensive database on U.S. and, increasingly, global grantmakers and their grants.
Good 360 - Visit Website
Good 360 is a non-profit organization that partners with hundreds of companies, including 125 on the Fortune 500 list, to distributing $300 million in critical goods each year. Schools create a "wishlist" of products such as computers, routers, etc. for companies to fulfill.
Fiber to the Home: Funding Resources Page - Visit Website
List with descriptions of federal grant programs to support fiber to homes nationwide. Resources listed are, in most cases, also applicable to bringing fiber to public schools.