Budgeting for next year? Here’s how to get the best bang for your buck.
There’s a lot of pressure on IT directors to find excellent products and stay within (ever-shrinking) school tech budgets. It’s a tough balancing act. But with some careful planning and not-too-painful frugality, that mission can be accomplished. Read on.
Evaluate Your Current Resources
With rapidly changing technology, staff turnover, and everyone getting lost in the daily grind, it’s easy to lose track of what’s being used and what’s gathering dust. Take inventory of your devices, services, and systems and decide which you should keep, what needs updating or upgrading, and which duds can go bye-bye. Why spend money on services and subscriptions no one is using?
Ditch Obsolete Technologies
While you’re busy taking inventory and poking around closets, there are some technology dinosaurs you can jettison:
- 16mm film projectors
- Cassette-tape players
- Opaque and overhead projectors
- Microsoft Works/AppleWorks software
- VHS tapes and players
- CRT (cathode ray tube) TVs
Spending precious budget dollars to maintain “antiques” like these is a waste.
Have a Powwow with Stakeholders
Administrators, teachers, students, and parents all have a stake in the tech decisions you make. Consider their needs before you buy. Some schools set up advisory committees with representatives from each group. Let them enlighten you before you nail down funding allocation and goals.
Find Money for Your School Tech Budget
If your tech needs and dreams exceed your budget, go for the grant. There’s money out there for schools—you just have to find it. Check state, federal, and other funding opportunities. Although the application process can be time-consuming, it may be well worth your while (or worth hiring someone to do the legwork). Here are a few resources to get you started:
- Edutopia’s Big List of Educational Grants and Resources
- NEA Foundation Grants to Educators
Hop on the E-Rate Train
Speaking of “free money,” make sure you’re maximizing your E-Rate funding. In true government style, the FCC has made the E-Rate application process incredibly complex and difficult, which can deter schools from getting everything they’re eligible for. You may want to hire an E-Rate consultant, who can make sure you apply for all the right services, prepare the forms properly, and submit applications by the deadline.
Buy in Bulk
Some vendors (like K12USA) offer discounts for multi-service and/or multi-year subscriptions. See if you can bundle products to secure the best price.
Avoid Overkill Features
We’re all tempted by fancy extras and shiny bells and whistles. But too often, these fancy features cost a bundle, are overly complicated, and never get used. Resist the urge to go overboard—buy the most streamlined tools possible, and your users (and your school’s wallet) will thank you.
Budget for Training
Powerful technology is expensive—and totally worthless if no one knows how to use it. When buying new equipment, make sure you allocate part of your budget to training your users. Of course, if you can invest in products that require little or no training, that’s an even better solution.
If your school hasn’t gone BYOD (bring your own device), take the leap now. Asking students and teachers to bring their own laptops, smartphones, and tablets saves your school the tremendous expense of providing, maintaining, and upgrading those devices.
What are you favorite budgeting and cost-saving tips? Please share in the comments section below