Funding Digital Learning
Technology investments are not one time expenses. Once a vision for the use of technology is in place, district superintendents and school leaders should examine existing budgets to identify areas in which spending can be reduced or eliminated to pay for learning technologies. They also should consider all possibilities for creative funding of these programs. Leaders should consider technology an ongoing, line-item expense from the very beginning of planning technology implementation.
U.S. Department of Education Funds
The Department received $30.75 Billion through the CARES Act. There is much flexibility in how CARES Act funding can be spent, including to support technological capacity and access – including hardware and software, connectivity, and instructional expertise – to support remote learning. Four grant programs were created through the CARES Act, including:
- Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund;
- Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund;
- Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund; and,
- Education Stabilization Fund Discretionary Grants including:
- Education Stabilization Fund-Rethink K-12 Education Models Grants
- Education Stabilization Fund-Reimagining Workforce Preparation Grants
Each program page includes additional information including the notice inviting applications, State allocations, and FAQs, as applicable.
This letter provides some examples of how funds under Titles I through IV of the ESEA, as amended by the ESSA, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), may support the use of technology to improve instruction and student outcomes.
Each fiscal year, the Department updates its forecast of funding opportunities. This page includes a list of virtually all programs and competitions under which the Department has invited or expects to invite applications for new awards. The list is organized by each principal office (e.g., Office of Elementary and Secondary Education) and provides a link to the notice inviting applications, application deadline dates, and a point of contact.
The Department has identified twelve programs that support both K-12 and Postsecondary institutions that can support broadband infrastructure and adoption. Some of these programs may even be used to support access to devices for students (e.g., tablets, computers) and mobile hotspot devices and data plans. Visit the BroadbandUSA Funding Guide and filter by “Department of Education” to view the list.
Other Federal Funds
Federal Funding for Broadband Infrastructure
The Broadband USA website provides information on federal programs that provide funding that can support broadband infrastructure and adoption. Funding opportunities can be filtered by federal agency (e.g. U.S. ED, USDA, FCC), program purpose (e.g. broadband infrastructure, digital skills training), and eligible recipients (e.g. K-12 schools, Higher Education Institutions, State and Local governments).
School Broadband Infrastructure
The E-Rate program, governed by the FCC, provides discounts to assist most schools and libraries in the United States (and U.S. territories) to obtain affordable telecommunications and Internet access. E-Rate provides support in the form of discounts for telecommunications products and services – schools receive discounts of 20%-90% compared to regular fees, with the degree of discount depending on the level of poverty and the urban/rural status of the population a school serves. Eligible schools, school districts and libraries may apply individually or as part of a consortium.
Distance Learning Technology
The Distance Learning and Telemedicine program helps rural communities use the unique capabilities of telecommunications to connect to each other and to the world, overcoming the effects of remoteness and low population density. For example, this program can link teachers and medical service providers in one area to students and patients in another.
Grant funds may be used for:
- Acquisition of eligible capital assets, such as:
- Broadband transmission facilities
- Audio, video and interactive video equipment
- Terminal and data terminal equipment
- Computer hardware, network components and software
- Inside wiring and similar infrastructure that further DLT services
- Acquisition of instructional programming that is a capital asset
- Acquisition of technical assistance and instruction for using eligible equipment