Classroom Connectivity

E-Rate_Callout

On March 10, 2016, Governor Greg Abbott announced the Classroom Connectivity Initiative, a joint partnership between the Texas Education Agency, the regional education service centers and the non-profit EducationSuperHighway. The initiative is designed to increase access to affordable, high-speed broadband and Wi-Fi access for K–12 public schools in Texas. The Classroom Connectivity Initiative focuses on providing information and assistance to LEAs to optimize funding available through the E-rate program.

We work with your district in three areas:

Classroom Connectivity initiative overview. We work with your district to provide fiber or equivalent, bandwidth to meet the FCC 2014 goal of 100kbps per student, help you use category 2 funding for wifi

Texas State Matching Fund:

  • Authorized by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) though the Second E-rate Modernization Order
  • Appropriated by the 85th Texas State Legislature in June 2017
  • State matching funds reduce the local funding share for E-rate approved Category 1 special construction projects by providing a dollar-for-dollar match. Therefore, if Texas provides $25 million, the FCC will provide  $25 million.
  • LEAs with an E-rate discount of 80% to 90% can have their E-rate approved Category 1 special construction project fully funded.
  • LEAs with an E-rate discount rate less than 80% can receive an additional 20% of their approved project costs.
  • State matching funds were available for the E-rate Funding Year 17, Funding Year 18 and Funding Year 19 cycles

Current E-rate Opportunities:

In January, the FCC released a new Report and Order that makes changes to E-rate rules for Category 2 funding applications.

The most significant changes to E-rate rules for Category Two funding applications include:

Permanent adoption of the Category 2 budget approach

The FCC has made the "Category 2 budget" approach adopted in 2014 permanent. The approach consists of five-year budgets for all schools and libraries that provide a set amount of funding to support internal connections.

Extension of the five-year test period through Funding Year 2020

To ensure a smooth transition to the new permanent rules that will be effective in 2021, the FCC has extended the "test period" rules – used during Funding Years 2015-2019 – through Funding Year 2020. In other words, the five-year test period and budget is now a six-year test period and budget for all applicants.

A central outcome of this decision is that applicants can use whatever budget they have remaining and ALL applicants will be provided with a prorated portion of Category Two budget for Funding Year 2020 – increasing all applicant budgets by 20% for the current funding year. Any funds that are not used this year expire and will not carry forward.

A school will calculate its Funding Year 2020 Category Two budget by multiplying its Funding Year 2020 student count by $195.63 (the Funding Year 2020 school multiplier) and subtracting the pre-discount amount of Category Two funding it received in Funding Years 2015-2019.

 

New rule changes that will go into effect in 2021:

  • All applicant budgets will be reset.

  • Fixed Five-year budget cycles for everyone.

  • Category 2 budgets will be calculated on a school district-wide budget basis (instead of on a school by school basis).

  • The “Funding Floor” will increase from $9,200 to $25,000 for districts with less than 150 students.

  • The per-student budget multiplier has been adopted as an inflation-adjusted $167 (rounded up for administrative simplicity).

  • Small school districts with ten or fewer sites have the option to calculate their budgets on a per-site basis.

  • Applicants will only need to provide student counts once every budget cycle.

  • Student counts will be based on full-time enrollment.

  • No new eligible services have been added.

  • Equipment transfer rules have been loosened

Initiative Partners:

Many Education Service Centers (ESC) assist districts in the E-rate process. This may include assisting with filing for E-rate funding or the creation of consortiums and consortium applications to take advantage of economies of scale.

TEA has partnered with EducationSuperHighway to provide experts with network technology and network procurement skills. The team can support all aspects of your upgrade process. Our partners can assist with research on potential network upgrade options, contact service providers, and provide RFP/ Form 470 guideline assistance for E-rate and state match applications. All assistance through the Classroom Connectivity Initiative is provided free of charge.

EducationSuperHighway's Compare and Connect K-12 tool allows districts to maximize their budgets by comparing prices with nearby school districts.

Important Notice

For applicants who applied for and were approved for the 2017-2020 E-rate Classroom Connectivity (State Match) grant, the last day to expend grant funds is May 31, 2020.

This also means that if your Notice of Grant Award (NOGA) funds have been released, your district needs to draw down those funds before May 31, 2020.

For applicants who applied for and were approved for the 2018-2021 E-rate Classroom Connectivity (State Match) grant, the last day to expend grants funds is May 31, 2021. This means if your project was approved by TEA, that funding will expire May 31, 2021 and funds must be drawn down by this date.

 

Contact Information

TEA Classroom Connectivity Initiative and State Match Contact:
classroomconnectivity@tea.texas.gov