School Technology:

Five School Districts' Experiences in Financing Technology Programs

T-HEHS-98-83: Published: Jan 29, 1998. Publicly Released: Jan 29, 1998.

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GAO discussed how school districts obtain funds for the acquisition of education technology, focusing on: (1) sources of funding school districts have used to develop and fund their technology programs; (2) barriers districts have faced in funding the technology goals they set, and how they attempted to deal with these barriers; (3) components of districts' technology programs that have been the most difficult to fund, and what the consequences have been; and (4) districts' plans to deal with the ongoing costs of the technology they have acquired.

GAO noted that: (1) the five districts it studied used a variety of ways to fund their technology programs; (2) four types of barriers seemed to be common to several districts: (a) technology was just one of a number of competing needs and priorities, such as upkeep of school buildings; (b) local community resistance to higher taxes limited districts' ability to raise more revenue; (c) officials said they did not have enough staff for fund-raising efforts and therefore had difficulty obtaining grants and funding from other sources such as business; and (d) some funding sources had restrictive conditions or requirements that made funding difficult to obtain; (3) to overcome these barriers, officials reported that their districts used a variety of methods to educate and inform the school board and the community about the value of technology; (4) these ranged from presentations to parent groups to the establishment of a model program at one school to showcase the value of technology; (5) the parts of the technology program that were hardest to fund, according to those GAO interviewed, were components such as maintenance, training, and technical support, which depend heavily on staff positions; (6) for example, in two locations special levy and bond funding could be used only for capital expenditures--not for staff; (7) in several districts GAO visited, officials said that staffing shortfalls in maintenance and technical support had resulted in large workloads for existing staff and in maintenance backlogs; (8) most said this resulted in reduced computer use because computers were out of service; and (9) as these districts looked to the future to support the ongoing and periodic costs of their technology programs, they typically planned to continue using a variety of funding sources despite uncertainties associated with many of these sources.

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