School Technology:

Five School Districts' Experiences in Funding Technology Programs

HEHS-98-35: Published: Jan 29, 1998. Publicly Released: Jan 29, 1998.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed how five school districts funded their technology goals and their difficulties in finding those resources, focusing on: (1) the funding sources school districts used to develop and fund their technology programs; (2) the barriers school districts have faced in funding the technology goals they set, and their efforts to overcome these barriers; (3) which components of districts' technology programs have been the most difficult to fund, and what have been the consequences; and (4) how the districts plan to handle the ongoing costs of the technology they have acquired.

GAO noted that: (1) the five districts that GAO studied used a variety of ways to fund their technology programs; (2) funding sources included money from district operating budgets, special technology levies and bonds, state and federal funds, and private and other contributions; (3) most districts received a majority of funding from one source, although this funding source varied by district; (4) technology directors in the five districts have cited a variety of barriers to obtaining the funds needed to implement technology programs; (5) in all five districts, technology had to compete for funding with other needs and priorities, including school building maintenance, repair, and construction, mandated programs, and additional teachers to handle increased enrollment; (6) community resistance to higher taxes, according to district officials, limited all five districts' ability to raise more revenue; (7) technology directors also cited barriers to obtaining other sources of funding, such as business contributions or grants, particularly because the districts lacked staff to manage fund-raising efforts; (8) furthermore, some officials reported that demographics made them ineligible for some grants; (9) program components that were hardest to fund, technology directors and others said, were those heavily dependent on staff positions; (10) staffing was difficult to fund because some funding sources' could not be used for staffing and because some sources were not well suited for this purpose; (11) to support the ongoing and periodic costs of their technology programs, the districts planned to continue using a variety of funding sources largely as in the past despite some of these sources' uncertainties; (12) most planned to continue to fund annual ongoing costs, such as maintenance and technical support, with district operating dollars; (13) officials were not sure, however, how much these sources would provide in the future as program needs grow; (14) the periodic costs of eventually upgrading and replacing equipment, software, and infrastructure also faced uncertain funding; and (15) officials in some locations noted that at times major funding sources fell significantly short of expectations.

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