Best Practices for Balancing Budgets with Government Funding During a Pandemic

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At the height of the pandemic, K-12 district leaders had to make technology purchasing decisions on the fly. They have invested in available solutions to put students and staff online to preserve the continuity of learning.

Government relief funds have been deployed to support these education technology initiatives. Multiple rounds of ESSER funding, the Connectivity Emergency Fund, and other grants have helped some schools make the necessary purchases.

With so many funding options available, K-12 managers and IT decision makers should keep these best practices in mind when planning their budgets this year and evaluating new funding streams. that could happen to them.

LEARN MORE ABOUT EDTECH: Why should schools prioritize legacy technology updates?

Carefully assess the usefulness of technology to ensure compliance

With each new funding announcement comes new deadlines and new regulations on how schools can spend it. ECF, for example, came with many compliance guidelines for districts to follow.

Although public funds allocated for a certain purpose can benefit districts, they should be careful when purchasing technology solutions. If the technology does not tick all the necessary boxes, the school will not be allowed to use the funding for it. This could mean reworking the budget again to account for a shortfall.

To avoid this, carefully assess what will be useful for students and district staff and keep track of how technology allows. Data analysis can help schools prove the usefulness of technology in the event of an audit.

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Bring all parties to the table for district purchasing decisions

When it comes to budgeting, schools can use the money available to them in many ways to support education. They could use their budget for new Chromebooks, for new interactive panels or even for a new roof on the building. This can lead to conflicts between departments over who needs the money the most.

DIVE DEEPER: Schools can allocate ESSER funds to revamp transportation technologies.

Bringing all parties to the table ensures that all voices are heard when decisions are made. It also ensures that everyone is on the same page. This can help different departments in the district respond to questions or criticisms about the use of public funds.

Because parents and community members can see how the school spends public funds, careful scrutiny of spending by all departments keeps school leaders accountable to the community.

Invest funds in future-proof K-12 districts

Examine the organization’s priorities and look for areas where funding can support sustainable investment. Future-proofing technology within the district can help IT managers make decisions about technology budgeting and purchases in the future.

Technology upgrades, like moving to Wi-Fi 6 or Windows 11 or investing in the next-generation Chromebook, can help a district more easily embrace changes in the future.

Another way to be sustainable with currently available funds is to invest in services. Partners like CDW•G can help districts with their purchases of new educational technology, from initial scoping to device lifecycle management.

If schools are investing in upgraded flat screens for the front of every classroom, or a conference call system or new projectors, they need to consider the departments involved in deploying and managing these devices. Often, K-12 IT teams don’t have the manpower to rewire network cables or support large-scale installations.

Business continuity plans can also help districts prepare for the impending funding cliff. Planning for federal funding timelines, as well as traditional funding timelines, is key to ensuring districts get the most out of their budgets during a pandemic.

This article is part of the “ConnectIT: Bridging the gap between education and technology” series. Please join the discussion on Twitter using the #ConnectIT hashtag.

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