How 'Tech' Can Your School Get? - FAQs for Leveraging E-Rate Funds for Better Connectivity

While the majority of K-12 private and charter schools in and around Tucson may be eager to introduce technology solutions into their classrooms, it’s important to understand which investments will offer the best returns – and how best to pay for them.

Of course, all schools need basic connectivity to the internet. But, how much tech to deploy? It really depends on the vision of the school and how individual educators choose to structure course curriculum. Although some schools continue to focus on face-to-face interaction with an emphasis on pen-to-paper learning, we are seeing more and more wanting to promote themselves as being on the cutting edge of new tech – strong on STEM and robust in internet-based tool resources.

In all cases, schools frequently need to refresh their hardware to provide a modern educational experience.

Continuing to expand the K-12 education experience beyond the classroom requires additional infrastructure to enable and empower those educational avenues. But, be warned. A recent survey found hidden costs from implementing ineffective technology solutions can be as high as $220 per student.

Whatever your school’s technology philosophy, funding key components of your plan can present significant challenges. On the plus side, there’s E-rate. However, the E-rate application may appear complicated and overwhelming, so many schools choose not to take advantage of the program.

If you work in a school with aging devices – infrastructure built over five years ago or lacking in the connectivity to provide the Internet-based tools your educators require – it’s time to leverage E-rate. In this article, we’ll share with you what you need to know about the process, an overview of its obstacles, and how you can achieve best practices to receive the funding your school needs to go further with technology.

What is E-rate?

The FCC's E-rate program makes telecommunications and information services more affordable for schools and libraries. It provides discounts for telecommunications, internet access, and internal connections to eligible schools and libraries.

Think of your school’s infrastructure like owning a car. At some point, your current car will need to be replaced. Depending on your budget, you might decide to obtain a similar vehicle. But, what if you could upgrade without increasing your budget? Many schools have older (over five years) or less-robust infrastructures in place. In other words, it will soon be time to make a significant technology investment. E-rate can be a viable outside-funding opportunity to do just that.

Who is Eligible?

To be eligible to receive E-rate discounts, schools and libraries must meet certain eligibility criteria. In general, elementary, secondary, private and religious schools are eligible to receive discounts, as long as they have an endowment less than $50 million and are not-for-profit.

Common E-rate Obstacles Schools Face

Overwhelmed by ‘Red Tape’

The task of completing an E-rate application often falls to education professionals, not technology professionals. Persistence is required to put together a winning process. What forms do you need to fill out? How do you conduct a successful competitive bid offering? How do you properly construct a needs evaluation? It’s no wonder schools often balk at the process. Starting early and building structure around benchmarks will help alleviate the stress associated with these important activities.

Knowing What Tech You Need

Even when a school has identified its connectivity needs, determining the tech investments required to get there can be a challenge. For instance, most education professionals don’t know what switches or access points they need to connect a group of classrooms to the internet.

Understanding what’s behind the “plug in the wall” requires expertise that often needs to come from outside your staff. Partnering with a knowledgeable IT managed service provider (MSP) like Silverado makes finding out what you need a whole lot easier.

Is It Worth The Effort?

Many schools believe the chances of receiving funding are very low. Others think they will only receive a small portion of the requested funding and, thus, the application process is simply not worth the effort.

The reality is: If you have the budget allocated, E-rate funding is currently available, and your request is a qualifying service, you’re highly likely to receive it.

Dates You Need to Know

The 2020-21 application process is now open. The early wave of activity starts in November and runs through February. The deadline for filing Form 470 to initiate the process is tentatively set for February 28, 2020, and the application process is set to close in or around March 27, 2020.

Gain E-rate Clarity with Silverado

When it comes to leveraging E-rate technology funding, the earlier you get started the better. Tucson-area schools new to the process or needing help getting started should engage with Silverado to learn about best practices for the key components of their E-rate application.

It’s important to note that an IT managed service provider (MSP) cannot and should not prepare your invitations to bid, nor can they complete the application process on your behalf.

We can help you with:

  • Technical needs assessment
  • Information about how E-rate works
  • Forms and deadlines
  • Tools and resources
  • E-rate portal access

2020 E-rate funds are available, and you deserve your fair share.

Call Silverado at (520) 903-1580 or contact us online and let us help you assess what technology you might need to move into a new educational space.

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E-Rate, Education


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