Using Grants to Leverage E-Rate Connectivity

Penny Conway
Penny Conway
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A couple of weeks ago we completed Connection’s second webcast in the A+ Academy Series and took the opportunity to discuss E-Rate. This wasn’t your typical E-Rate information session where you learned about the lengthy application process and the rules and regulations around it. Instead, we wanted to spend a few minutes with our grant funding and E-Rate experts to talk about how you can begin to utilize your E-Rate funded projects to go after more dollars for your district. Before we dive into the two ways you can leverage E-Rate connectivity with grant funders, I wanted to share a brief recap on the E-Rate Modernization Orders. These are important to know as we approach the final funding year 2019—which is the last year to get known funding. Our Aruba Networks E-Rate Channel Manager walked through the E-Rate 2.0 and 2.1 program updates. Our E-Rate specialists can help you unpack these program updates and guide you through next steps of the application process as it relates to your districts initiatives. Now, let’s get into our grant funding tips!

Justifying Technology in Your Budget
Once schools have connectivity funded by E-Rate across their classrooms and districts, the possibilities of introducing new EdTech tools is vast and exciting. But, remember, lacking a piece of technology isn’t a good enough justification for it to be funded. Instead, you need to start with the need that technology will solve for. Be sure to explain this in your budget justification:
• What grant-funded activities will the needed technology enable?
• How is this technology (and activity) related to one of your stated project goals?
Remember: It’s the project (not the product) that gets funded. So, work closely with vendors, IT staff, teachers, and even grant funders to identify the right technology for your project’s goals.

Free Up Dollars for E-Rate
How are your dollars already spent and how can you fund projects more efficiently? These are two of the most asked questions when it comes to a school’s responsibility for their E-Rate projects. This is the perfect opportunity to begin looking at your district’s current projects that may be eligible for private or federal grant programs. For example, are you planning an upcoming security project? With recent school events, there has been an influx of dollars to support security initiatives. Identifying funding sources for slated projects like this may allow you to move funds from one project to other projects.

Remember: Always read the rules and guidelines for E-Rate and other funding programs to ensure you’re allocating funds appropriately.

All of this just touches the surface of this past webcast. I encourage you to watch this and our other grant funding webcasts to learn how you can get closer to fully funding your EdTech projects to improve learning outcomes and environments for students.

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Penny Conway

Penny is a Program Manager for Microsoft in Education at Connection, helping schools leverage technology to improve student and teacher outcomes. Her area of expertise is the complete education offering from Microsoft including; Windows 10 devices, Microsoft 365 Education products and Professional Development. In her free time, she enjoys cooking and spending time with her family.

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