The Ultimate Guide to Using Grants to Fund New Technology for K-12 Schools
At first glance, choosing to revitalize your school district by adopting new educational technology can feel like an insurmountable hill to climb. However, there are many different grant and funding programs to help your school district do just that. Below, you’ll find the different sources of funding and how they can be used to ensure your district is at the forefront of providing excellent educational experiences for students and their families.
Types of Educational Grants
It’s important to note that there are two main types of grants: formula grants (also often called state-administered programs) and discretionary grants. Although some funding programs may work outside of these two frameworks, it’s rare to see.
Formula grants are given based on pre-set formulas. Before the year begins, Congress determines how much will be appropriated to go to schools through these grants. Although most formula grants do require a state or school district to fill out a basic application, they are always noncompetitive. As long as a state or school district meets the predetermined formula, it will be awarded the grant. The grant size, however, may fluctuate based again on the formula: a state or school district’s size or population of students living in poverty will usually cause fluctuations in how much is awarded.
Discretionary grants, however, are given out based on predetermined criteria and are competitive—not every state or district that applies will receive the grant. Applications are typically much more involved than applications for formula grants. States or districts apply for grants they believe match based on published descriptions, and then a panel of judges awards the grants to the states or school districts they believe best match the description and awards the appropriate amount to the winners.
Educational Grant Sources
Most educational grants come through the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE) in some form or fashion. The OESE is a branch of the United States Department of Education and exists “to empower States, districts, and other organizations to meet the diverse needs of every student by providing leadership, technical assistance, and financial support.”
OESE typically sends funding to State Education Agencies (SEAs), who then pass the funding on to Local Education Agencies (LEAs)—that is, local school districts. Depending on the funds given, OESA sometimes requires that the money is given as formula grants, and other times allows SEAs to decide whether the funds will be given as formula or discretionary grants.
ESSA Funding for Schools
One of OESE’s primary responsibilities is to award each state its appropriate ESSA funding. Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in 2015, replacing No Child Left Behind (NCLB). It is organized into nine different sections, called “titles.” The majority of these titles provide funding (typically through formula grants) to the states and school districts that comply with the requirements of the title. The titles are:
Title I: Improving Basic Programs Operated by State and Local Educational Agencies
Title II: Preparing, Training, and Recruiting High-Quality Teachers, Principals, or Other School Leaders
Title III: Language Instruction for English Learners and Immigrant Students
Title IV: 21st Century Schools
Title V: State Innovation and Local Flexibility
Title VI: Indian, Native Hawaiian, and Alaskan Native Education
Title VII: Impact Aid
Title VIII: General Provisions
Title IX: Education for the Homeless and Other Laws
Four of the first five titles are the titles that are most likely to provide the funding necessary for improving a school district’s ed tech, and are outlined in further detail below:
- Title I: The purpose of Title I funding is to improve basic program operations across educational agencies, and as such, frequently provides school districts with one of their best sources of funding to upgrade their educational technology. Each state is required to designate 7% of its Title I monies to interventions and technical assistance, including instructional services like online software.
Title I funds must be used to “support evidence-based educational strategies that close the achievement gap and enable the students to meet the state’s challenging academic standards.” Additionally, Part A requires that funds are used to “involve parents/guardians of participating public and private school children as active partners in their children’s education at school through open, meaningful communication, training, and, as appropriate, inclusion in decision-making processes.” As educational technologies typically enhance a school district’s ability to meet both of these requirements, Title I funding is often used to purchase online ed tech software.
Although Congress rejected President Biden’s 2022 proposal to double the Title I allocated amount, they did approve a 6% increase, which means that in 2023 there will be additional Title I funds available to states and school districts.
- Title II: Title II exists to ensure high-quality professional development (HQPD). Part A of Title II provides supplemental resources to school districts to support systems of support for excellent teaching and leading; however, most states disqualify evaluation system-related data systems to manage linking student-teacher data, and so Title II funding rarely helps school districts purchase new ed tech.
- Title IV: The original purpose of Title IV funding was to bring schools into the 21st Century through improved use of digital literacy. As time has gone by, provisions have been added to ensure school districts have the funds needed to ensure that all students not only have access to the technology required for excellent education but that technology is used to improve academic achievement.
Part A of Title IV focuses on student support and academic enrichment grants that additionally allow for partnerships with businesses that will increase either access to technology or enable technology to be used to improve academic achievement. Moreover, it stipulates that a portion of funding should be used for professional development that allows for using data and technology to improve instruction.
However, it is important to note that while Part A of Title IV does allow for the purchase of technology infrastructure, including devices, equipment, and software applications, no more than 15% of allocated funds can be used towards these purchases.
Title IV not only contains two grant programs but an additional discretionary grant program and various assistance programs, as well, some of which may be applicable to educational technology that increases educators’ ability to capture and act on educational data to improve learner outcomes.
- Title V: Title V exists to ensure that school districts with small populations or in low-density areas (rural schools) have access to funds that they may otherwise miss out on due to not having the staff or resources needed to apply for grants. However, what is significant about Title V is that the funds awarded to these rural schools can be used for the activities and resources approved under Title I Section A, Title II Section A, Title III Section A, and Title IV Section A. So a small, rural school may have more success purchasing online educational software through awarded Title V funds.
ESSER Funding for Schools
With the advent of the Coronavirus, Congress passed the first Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act in March 2020. This act included the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund, which provided a large sum of SEAs to distribute to LEAs. As the deadline to use these funds began to expire, Congress passed the follow-up Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act in December 2020, which again included extra funds for schools through ESSER II. Finally, in March 2021, Congress passed the American Rescue Plan (ARP), again designating funds through ARP ESSER. The deadline for schools to use these funds is September 2023, which means that school districts have a chance to access these funds for another several months.
According to the OSEA’s ARP ESSER Fact Sheet, the funds LEAs receive from their states can be used for a large array of needs, including “purchasing educational technology (including hardware, software, connectivity, assistive technology, and adaptive equipment) for students that aids in regular and substantive educational interaction between students and their classroom instructors, including students from low-income families and children with disabilities.”
Other Grant Programs for Schools
Government Grants: In addition to ESSA and ESSER funding, the Department of Education offers a variety of other discretionary grants. You can learn more about those on their website here:
Furthermore, you can learn more about how the Department of Education supports Technology in Education through various initiatives here.
State Grants: Many states choose to designate ESSA and ESSER funds as discretionary grants. Additionally, many states offer their own discretionary grants for various state-led initiatives in education. Be sure to check your state’s Department of Education website to learn more.
Private Grants: There are many companies in the for-profit sector and organizations in the non-profit sector that offer their own grants to support technology in education.
How Does Otus Fit?
As schools increasingly need new, creative solutions to meet students where they’re at to provide exceptional educational opportunities, Betsy DeVos’ cover letter to State Commissioners is particularly insightful:
“My Department will not micromanage how you spend these funds, but I encourage you during these challenging times to see this unprecedented disruption as an opportunity to rethink the way students access education. At a time when so many school boards and superintendents have closed campuses for the balance of the school year, it’s important to think creatively about new delivery methods and focus on investing in the technology infrastructure and professional development and training that will help all students continue to learn through some form of remote learning. Students and their families are depending on your leadership to ensure that they do not fall behind.”
Otus is an all-in-one platform designed to support learning, no matter where students are. Otus helps every student reach their full potential by providing educators with one platform to gather, visualize, and act on data. With an integrated suite of assessment and grading tools, educators can easily determine where students are now and use data to drive instruction and personalized learning plans forward. Otus centralizes learning, assessments, and data in one hub that works with your favorite tools. It’s an excellent new delivery method to help schools rise to the challenges of this new era of education we find ourselves in. Questions? We’d love to chat. Contact our team today.
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