Distance and hybrid learning | Education insights

Three tips for preparing your school IT budget for life after pandemic funding

In 2020 and 2021, the U.S. government issued around $190 billion in grants to help schools cover pandemic-related technology expenses. That money has been used to build out 1:1 device programs, purchase educational software, hire new IT support personnel, create tutoring programs to combat learning loss, and more. 

For many schools, the availability of this funding and the necessities surrounding distance learning fast-tracked strategic purchases they may not have been ready to make. This rush to purchase technology meant that schools did not necessarily launch these new initiatives with long-term sustainability strategies in mind. 

There are many benefits of 1:1 programs, including enhancing student achievement, decreasing socioeconomic gaps, and helping students develop digital literacy and citizenship skills. However, as expenses mount and devices age and need replacement, determining how to sustain a 1:1 program without pandemic-era government funding can be a challenge. Here are three tips for planning for the future. 

1. Brush up on grant writing skills 

Realistically, the money needed to continue a 1:1 program will come from the same sources as before the pandemic — the schoolboard and individual grants.  

Use this time to start researching grants. Make a list of grants that may be a good fit for current programs or programs planned for future launch. Then do a deep dive to understand the types of data those grantors request and the programs that have won in the past.  

See tips for writing a strong grant application

2. Collect data that helps advocate for the tech needed 

School boards have limited funds to go around, so it’s a good idea to back up requests for IT budget with research and data. 

The first step to collecting compelling data is to set clear goals for the technology currently in place. What signifies a successful product or service?  

Some goal-setting categories might be: adoption and usage levels, teacher ratings, and student outcomes in subjects related to the technology. 

It’s a good idea to also keep up with external research on how various types of edtech enable student learning. Sometimes results will only be visible in the long term, so it’s important to have a broad view. 

3. Find ways to save 

Eventually, new devices will need to be purchased, so it makes sense to start proactively preventing budget waste where possible. That doesn’t just mean scrimping on purchases — in fact, it sometimes means spending a little extra to avoid big, unexpected costs in the future. 

Cybersecurity is one area where spending some money can save a great deal more. Investing in software and solutions that protect against ransomware, phishing attacks, and other common cyber threats.  

Extended device warranties can also save money in the long run. Kids are hard on devices, and it’s not unusual to need replacement parts or devices throughout the school year.  

Lenovo offers a SaaS tool called Lenovo Device Intelligence that uses AI to help predict potential system failures or performance issues before they occur and can also help identify and remediate problems without the expensive guesswork.  

Another way to save money is to consolidate tech vendors. Take advantage of bundle offers, like Lenovo’s device + LanSchool bundle, to leverage savings where it’s sensible. 

Finally, some schools are finding success by training and utilizing student tech workers. Not only does this give students real-world IT experience and skills, it can be cost-effective compared to hiring a full-time staff member.  

Be strategic and creative 

As expenses mount, school IT teams will be called on to make tough decisions about the future of their 1:1 and digital learning programs without compromising student learning due to budgetary reasons.   

Take this opportunity to start planning for the future with a sustainability strategy. Not only will it help make better decisions — it will make schools a better candidate for the precious funding that still exists

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