Education funding blueprint plan

Opportunities do exist but knowing how to take advantage of additional funding is the trick

The Department of Education's Readiness Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) program, first established in 2004 by OSDFS, focuses on schools' emergency management plans.

"Our focus has been on getting schools to really review and improve their crisis management plan," continued Modzelewski. "That program made about 700 grants funded to schools in about 700 districts in the U.S. including the majority of the large school systems. Now, in some of those, although again it's not the major focus, but a good number of those emergency management grants have dollars in there for technology. Most of the technology is on the communication side but again, the dollars go for a whole host of things and technology is one aspect of it. And that's focusing on the broad base emergency management plans schools have to have."

But although funding is available for education, some believe that it is not the amount of funding that is the issue but the way that the funding is distributed.

"Since the ARRA has boosted funding and most has already been allocated as part of previous fiscal budgets, immediate funding is not the issue, "explained Fredrik Nilsson, general manager for Axis Communications, Chelmsford, Mass. "Long term funding is a bigger issue as local economies struggle to cut budgets and make up shortfalls from State funding that came as a result of less taxes and less revenue driven by 2009 and recent economic conditions. The key here is to invest in scalable technologies so that when long-term funding becomes available, education institutions and their integrator partners can deploy the most up-to-date devices and technologies."

The "funding" breakdown

As funding varies from campus to campus, it is also important to understand that funding for education differs significantly in the K-12 market versus funding towards higher education, i.e. colleges and universities.

"The K-12 market is very challenging for those school districts because many of them don't even have enough appropriate funds to have appropriate staffing or textbook resources, materials, etc," said Tom Giannini, director of Security and Emergency Communications Marketing, SimplexGrinnell, Westminster, Mass. "So many times, in those kinds of school districts, without any assistance in the funding area, they do only what is mandated by their local jurisdiction which is fire alarm systems. If they can avail themselves of the grant sources available to a K-12 school district, and those grant sources can be at the state or federal level, than they can get those funds."

There is much more activity in the last 18 months in the K-12 education space so the schools seem to be finding more money to invest in security, according to Chris Kieta, national business development manager of Security Solutions Business Unit, Siemens Industries Inc. "Typically, these are intelligent IP video deployments," he continued. "I would say that just the number of projects you see taking place in the K-12 space supports the concept that, schools spending money on security becomes more pallatable every year to the tax payers because typically that is where that funding base is from."

So what type of projects are causing the K-12 space to have this increased amount of activity?

"The education experience, once you're on the campus, is about ease of movement in the campus, and most K-12 environments are going to be a large single building, especially in a grade school," explained Kieta. "It is typically intelligent video and in many cases IP based video systems; not a lot of card readers in this space but the programs that are being rolled out are typically district-wide. So instead of doing one school at a time, the district would have sat down and rolled out a roadmap that they believe is necessary for all of the facilities for the district, There's not a lot of opportunity for an integrator to go in and create demand. Most of the work that is done in K-12 environment is reactionary, or reactive on the part of an integrator; you wait for request for proposal to be released and you respond in the form of a bid. On the proactive selling side, in order to capture revenue in the K-12 space, demand creation is very tricky."