Logicalis US: The Government is Offering Free Money to Advance Digital Learning in K12 Schools

Solution Provider Encourages K12 CIOs to Explore the Revised E-Rate Program Before Filing Window Closes in March

NEW YORK, February 6, 2018 – Creating a digital learning environment is an important goal for every K12 school in America today, but what does “digital learning” actually look like – and equally important – how are K12 schools going to pay for it?  Consider a school with 4,000 children all using Chromebooks to type papers; the students then print their papers and turn in a hard copy.  While this is a step in the right direction, it’s not a true digital learning environment – yet.  Imagine, however, taking those same students and, rather than simply writing papers on a digital device, giving each student access to Internet-based applications and online-only textbooks all at the same time, all day long, every day.  As the students submit assignments directly to the school’s online learning management system (LMS), teachers have a real-time window into each student’s individual progress and can take proactive steps to help a student who is struggling.  Delivering this kind of personalized digital learning experience begins with the right infrastructure, and that costs money – often millions of dollars – to implement.  But, according to Logicalis US, an international IT solutions and managed services provider (www.us.logicalis.com), “free” money is available through the federal government’s E-rate program, a 21-year-old program that has been radically modified to give every school a very real opportunity to be awarded the funding they request.

“Today, if a K12 school applies – and applies correctly – they are virtually guaranteed to get the money,” says Adam Petrovsky, GovEd Practice Leader, Logicalis US. “I would encourage every K12 CIO to re-evaluate any concerns they have about being denied or about the program being too difficult to navigate.  E-rate is complicated, but with the help of an experienced consultant, you have a great likelihood of being approved. And if you think 25 cents or so on the dollar isn’t enough to cost-justify applying, on a million-dollar project – a project you will probably have to do anyway – that’s a savings of $250,000.  At the district level, superintendents should evaluate both the size of their capital budgets and the capabilities of their last network upgrade to determine if, without E-rate, either are sufficient to support tomorrow’s personalized learning programs.”

E-rate is a federally funded program that assists K12 schools and libraries throughout the U.S. with procuring technology, products and services at a significant discount based on the school’s poverty level. The intent of the program has always been to move schools onto the Internet and provide students with a digital learning environment that enhances their educational experience. Funding is provided through the Universal Service Fund fee attached to every phone in America – including cellular phones – so there is plenty of money available for schools to use.

Prior to 2015, however, most of the available E-rate funds were spent on “priority one” projects, which included things like voice lines and wide area networks, leaving little money for “priority two” (now called “category two”) Internet-connectivity technologies such as cabling, firewalls, switching and routing, wireless networks and wi-fi capabilities – the kinds of things that actually enable digital learning. As a result, many of the schools that applied for funding prior to 2015 – particularly category two funding – were quickly denied; only the poorest schools received money at that time. Disappointed in the lack of funds and disillusioned by the complexity of the E-rate application process, many K12 CIOs turned their backs on the program entirely.

In 2015, however, the program underwent very significant changes designed to re-focus E-rate funding on digital learning initiatives and to better distribute E-rate funds among a larger number of K12 schools. Today, while funding is still allocated based on a school’s poverty level, there are now more funds to distribute and nearly every school that submits a correctly completed application will receive some award.

Three Ways to Re-Energize Your E-Rate Program

Since the filing window for this year’s E-rate program will close in March, time is of the essence for K12 CIOs and superintendents interested in taking advantage of what amounts to free money for their digital learning initiatives. To help, the education experts at Logicalis US, a top 10 E-rate service provider, have outlined the following three ways to re-start your E-rate program.

  1. Align Your Learning and Technology Goals: To be prepared to deliver meaningful digital learning experiences, superintendents and K12 CIOs need to work together to create a roadmap that details the district’s learning goals and its plans for the infrastructure improvements needed to deliver on those strategies. By evaluating the district’s personalized learning goals and aligning them with the technology needed to implement those plans rather than looking at the two in a vacuum, technological gaps that could become stumbling blocks can be identified early and addressed by leveraging available grants, bonds and E-rate funds.
  2. Evaluate and Modify Your E-Rate Plan: Since every E-rate dollar is now likely to be funded, there is a compelling reason for K12 CIOs and district superintendents to evaluate and modify their E-rate plans. Hiring a consultant may be a strategic move since E-rate is complex and applications must be completed precisely for schools to receive the funding they request. One of the most common objections is that, if a school is awarded 20 cents on the dollar, to leverage that E-rate funding, they must come up with the remaining 80 cents for procurement, something which may not currently be in the budget. If, however, after creating a digital learning roadmap, it becomes clear that the district’s infrastructure won’t support the district’s goals, either the budget or roadmap will need to be adjusted. And, since digital learning technology is advancing so quickly, even a recent network upgrade may not be capable of supporting digital learning plans on the horizon. If E-rate can offset the expense of infrastructure upgrades identified as necessary in the roadmap, it’s something every school and every district should examine while the filing window is open.
  3. Expand Your E-Rate Conversations: Now that E-rate has been dramatically revised and is re-focused on the digital learning end game, it’s important to have conversations with a wide variety of experts – including potential solution provider partners, manufacturers and consultants – on a regular basis. Even if you have a particular partner that you’re loyal to and that you’ve worked with on E-rate for years, don’t be hesitant to hold at least quarterly discussions with an array of new and different potential partners who can give you additional perspectives to consider. Be certain, during these conversations, that you know the capabilities of the organizations you’re talking with; do they know the laws and regulations surrounding E-rate in your state? How many E-rate contracts have they won – and what do those schools have to say about their performance? Gather all the knowledge you can from these conversations, then select an E-rate partner that demonstrates the best understanding of your school or district’s top funding challenges and the ways to overcome them.

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About Logicalis

Logicalis is an international multi-skilled solution provider providing digital enablement services to help customers harness digital technology and innovative services to deliver powerful business outcomes.

Our customers span industries and geographical regions; our focus is to engage in the dynamics of our customers’ vertical markets including financial services, TMT (telecommunications, media and technology), education, healthcare, retail, government, manufacturing and professional services, and to apply the skills of our 4,500 employees in modernizing key digital pillars, data center and cloud services, security and network infrastructure, workspace communications and collaboration, data and information strategies, and IT operation modernization.

We are the advocates for our customers for some of the world’s leading technology companies including Cisco, HPE, IBM, NetApp, Microsoft, VMware and ServiceNow.

The Logicalis Group has annualized revenues of over $1.5 billion from operations in Europe, North America, Latin America, Asia Pacific and Africa.  It is a division of Datatec Limited, listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, with revenues of over $4 billion.

For more information, visit www.us.logicalis.com.

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