What you are about to read does not neatly fit into the normal format of a Funds For Learning article. It has a more personal tone, and it’s not organized in our typical fashion: we aim to provide a range of E-rate related information on our website and in our newsletter, from practical tips for helping applicants, to analysis of funding trends and the impact of FCC regulations. This article is just a little different than all that. It might best be titled Reflections on a Filing Window.
This is my 20th filing window. (Do you remember the 1999 “bonus” filing window?) Most filing windows seem to take on their own personality. This filing window certainly did. It was long and it didn’t seem to end. In fact, it hasn’t. And even though it moved slowly, it had a rather relentless feel to it. Much like a glacier or a lava flow, it didn’t move that fast but it kept plodding along, making its presence known.
What in the world is up with Category 2 funding requests? I know for a fact that schools need more Wi-Fi. All the data, all the surveys, everything points to it. Why, then, did internal connections requests drop 31% for schools? Was it EPC? Was it the 5-year budgets (i.e. are schools waiting to request next year)? Perhaps this represents a success if schools are comfortable waiting until the right time to replace their equipment. I don’t know.
To me, the drop in Category 2 demand, and the 10% decline in school participation, are the big stories of the filing window. Where are the schools and where are the Category 2 funding requests? I believe that getting to the bottom of those two questions is vital to the long-term success of the E-rate program. (This is one of the reasons I hope all applicants will participate in our nationwide survey.)
It is already June and this next year is going to fly by very quickly. We all need to be physically, mentally, and, yes, even emotionally, ready for the fact that FY2015 reimbursements, FY2016 PIAs and FY2017 Form 470s, for all intents and purposes, start now. And we will be managing this process within EPC for the foreseeable future. The pace of the E-rate program may ease off someday in the future, but this next year is not THAT future.
Internet connections to schools and libraries are essential. I am grateful that the E-rate program exists to support this important mission. There has been, and will continue to be a lot of change. Much of this is not easy, but it is a worthy cause, and we all have a role to play in helping the process move along.