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Bonner school board seeks tech funding

February 18, 2015

Funding from the state is being reduced, but Bonner Springs-Edwardsville USD 204 may get one small boost in funding for communication technology.

The USD 204 Board of Education Monday discussed future uses for E-Rate funds, or the Schools and Libraries Program of the Universal Service Fund, a 15-year-old program administered through an organization under the Federal Communications Commission. The program was recently overhauled and will provide some increased technology funding to schools and libraries next year.

Dan Brungardt, superintendent, explained that funds are generated by the Universal Service fee charged to companies that provide telecommunications services. Its annual budget thus far has been about $2.25 billion, which is largely given to schools and libraries based on need.

In the past, the program has focused on funding telecommunication service needs and internal connections, but now it will focus more on the internet and wireless networking instead of telecommunications and will have a $4.9 billion budget to get schools in America upgraded for high-speed connections, at the direction of President Barack Obama.

“This is part of President Obama’s theory that if you can go to Starbucks and get better WiFi than you can at a school, there might be something wrong,” Brungardt said. “And to me, that actually makes sense.”

Brungardt expects that USD 204 will qualify for $315,000 in E-Rate funds. He told the board he would like to use those funds to upgrade current fiber networks and firewalls and replace more than 50 switches that run wireless access points. He also would like to add a web caching service to speed up access to the district’s most frequently used websites.

The district must file for the funds by March 26.

“What the district is trying to do is to get in early and get the money, and not wait to the end and hope that it is still there,” Brungardt noted in the board’s agenda.

The board also approved moving special education busing in-house, which should save the district about $75,000.

The district currently contracts special education transportation services with a third-party vendor through the Wyandotte Special Education Co-op. The cost of the contract last year was more than $1 million; the state reimburses the Co-op for 80 percent of the cost.

Brungardt said if the district leased or purchased nine buses and hired drivers and bus aides to provide the services, the total cost for the service should be $619,741, 80 percent of which again would be reimbursed by the state.

In other business, the board also joined the now more than 170 school boards from across the state in opposing Senate Bill 171, which would move local elections, including school board elections, from April to November and require them to be partisan.

“I think it’s crazy that they’re even thinking about this,” said board member Jeff Tinberg. “If they did something like this, I don’t think you’d have cohesive boards, you wouldn’t get things done.”

Brungardt said the board was only now approving the resolution because of its meeting schedule; most districts, including Basehor-Linwood, approved the resolution last week, when USD 204 didn’t have a meeting.

According to the Kansas Association of School Boards, the Kansas Senate Ethics and Elections Committee Wednesday approved an amendment that would keep the local elections nonpartisan; the bill still would move the elections to November.

Originally published at: http://www.bonnersprings.com/news/2015/feb/18/bonner-school-board-seeks-tech-funding/