Building an Educational Technology Infrastructure
Leveraging State resources during capital improvement projects can also assist districts in the acquisition of computer infrastructure and devices. Districts are entitled to reimbursement for a portion of their eligible capital expenses, depending on their relative wealth. The levels of reimbursement (ranging from 98% for the most economically-disadvantaged districts to 10% for the least economically-disadvantaged districts), are subject to maximum thresholds. Districts may combine these funds with other State and Federal resources, including E-Rate, Smart Schools Bond Act funds, and BOCES aid.
The State building aid program, which requires voter approval of capital projects, is the main avenue for capital funding. After voter approval, a district can design and implement a program to upgrade significantly their technology capabilities. The State will fund technology infrastructure as an eligible expense in either new construction or reconstruction of existing facilities.
Such funding throughout the facility and district can include:
- the data storage system;
- backbone cable or fiber network;
- specific devices (e.g., individual desktop computers for each teaching station, if the curriculum can be shown to require each teacher to access the network to pull teaching material from various sources to present as part of the curriculum); and
- end-of-line devices (e.g., projectors and Smart Boards included as parts of permanent construction).
Note: Portable devices are not eligible.
A district may obtain a limited number of student devices for specific purposes at the secondary (grades 7-12) level as part of a construction program. For example, if the school offers instruction in computer use, programming, and design, the district may purchase the appropriate number of devices to support the instruction in those programs. Districts currently may not use building aid to purchase devices for the general student population or for elementary school students.
Districts may implement projects through two main methods: bond sale or capital outlay (cash).
- With the bond sale method, districts sell bonds to obtain funding for larger projects, and the State reimburses these projects at the district rate over a 15-year amortization period.
- With the capital outlay (cash) method, for projects under $100,000, districts may budget $100,000 or less in their annual budget and receive all appropriate State reimbursement in the following year. State building aid will reimburse a district for one $100,000 project each year. This may be the simplest method of financing technology upgrades on an incremental basis.
The Federal E-Rate Program has provided reimbursement for telecommunication and broadband access and services to school buildings since 1997. This program can be used in conjunction with State Building Aid. The rate of discount for reimbursement by the E-Rate Program varies from school to school based on a needs index, calculated by using Free and Reduced Price Lunch (FRPL) program data. To address the needs of increasing Internet access and sufficient bandwidth for computer-based testing (CBT), districts should carefully examine and explore the E-Rate Discount Program Services in budget planning and infrastructure development. It also important for schools to work with their service providers to secure necessary security and sufficient bandwidth, but avoid unnecessary costs associated with over-supply.
Infrastructure Development Guides
- Analysis of Costs to Upgrade and Maintain Robust Local Area Networks for all K-12 Public Schools, (200KB) COSN/Education SuperHighway, May, 2014