Yes, it’s that time of year again! Students and teachers are looking forward to the holidays, but E-rate administrators are awaiting the announcement that could make or break theirs.

Schools around the nation are planning to participate in the E-rate program for Funding Year 2013, and are taking necessary steps in order to be ready for the anticipated filing window. The planning process starts early and is very important. Schools are expected to start planning for the next school year before the end of the first semester of the current year. They work diligently to get technology plans approved, follow the procurement process, select service providers, obtain approval, and prepare applications. And many of these schools have limited staff and heavy workloads.

Schools appreciate that the FCC has been taking steps to simplify the application process and relieve administrative burdens that aren’t necessary. In a recent survey of schools, applicants ranked potential FCC actions to improve the E-rate program. Of the suggested actions, the second most important - after increasing the E-rate funding cap - was to set an annual filing window date.

A set filing window would benefit the program by:

  • Simplifying planning
  • Increasing predictability
  • Reducing mistakes
  • Streamlining the application review and approval processes

I support Cathy’s idea of setting a predictable filing window of early Jan – March 1st. According to the average winter and spring break school schedules, this time period provides most schools the opportunity to submit their applications between breaks, after most inclement weather occurs, and while staff resources are available.

Schools are responsible to students and faculty to set the dates for their breaks and to give families planned notice. Therefore, schools schedule holidays on their calendars at the beginning of the school year. During these holidays and breaks, staff and other responsible parties may not be available for school work or E-rate processing. When USAC announces filing window dates well into the school year, schools are not able to adjust their holiday schedules, board meetings or staff availability. However, if the FCC could set an annual filing date, applicants could plan accordingly.