Despite contending with tight budgets, school districts have demonstrated a vested interest in developing their technology resources to ensure their students have access to current hardware and software. In fact, educational technology education for students is such an important concern for educators that there has been a Federal Communications Commission-sponsored initiative to keep school districts across the U.S. technologically competitive. Known as E-rate, the initiative is poised to put more current computers in schools in the coming years. While a positive endeavor, it may also have the unanticipated side effect of putting more personnel strain on existing IT departments in K-12 district-level schools.
Taking education online
The FCC recently announced plans to introduce significant overhauls to the existing E-rate plan, with a specific focus on providing online and WiFi access for schools and districts that currently lack adequate technology in this area.
"Closing the Wi-Fi gap means that millions more library patrons and students across the country will have access to opportunities that were previously denied. That's a big deal," FCC chairman Tom Wheeler told FedTechMag.
The 18-year-old E-rate program is about to enjoy an injection of $1 billion to be put toward increasing Internet connectivity across underprivileged and underserved districts.
Network cables versus purse strings
One very real challenge posed by the revised E-rate budget is the additional strain placed on existing school district IT departments caused by a tension between increased federal technology spending and stagnated district spending on more staff.
A 2014 report published by the Consortium for School Networking, in which CTOs and IT professionals employed by K-12 districts were surveyed, revealed a less-than-optimistic outlook for many local school districts' ability to meet the staffing requirements brought on by an influx in technology. Data found that 57 percent of those surveyed did not anticipate an increase to the school technology budget in 2014 - in fact, insufficient budget and resources was cited as the second largest challenge facing CTOs moving forward.
Investing in infrastructure
If school districts are unable to meet the increase in technology with greater staffing, they can instead opt to invest at least in part in technology that makes IT management more effective. IT incident management software and other such integrated programs can potentially take some of the load off of an already overtaxed IT department by streamlining the work order process and helping to keep track of maintenance requests, program installations and hardware upgrades as they become relevant.