June 8, 2023 –

K-12 districts nationwide are experiencing unprecedented challenges—from tightening budgets to students’ mental health. As administrators and school boards work to find sustainable solutions, what role might education technology play in empowering districts with the tools and information they need to meet these headwinds head-on?

1. Equal access to information and communication

Despite extensive institution- and government-driven efforts, there are still significant disparities across socioeconomic and demographic groups to achieve equal access to educational resources, information and communication channels.

In both urban and rural communities, students from low-income families, minority groups, and those with disabilities, often have limited access to the tools they need for a quality learning experience. For some of us, the idea of no broadband internet or access to a laptop seems unimaginable. But many students and families lack these valuable tools and rely on their smartphone—or their car—as their only means of connecting with your school or district.

This “technical disparity” became glaringly apparent during the recent pandemic, with students nationwide unexpectedly thrown into a “learn from home” reality. The lack of equal access to high-speed internet, devices and efficient communication channels had a direct and significant impact on academic performance. And after all of that, what did we learn?

There are meaningful steps your district can take to create a more accessible information technology infrastructure to create new efficiencies now and prepare you and your students for unexpected challenges in the future. Document management and process automation technologies allow districts to modernize operations with advances like eForms and digital signatures. These capabilities can greatly benefit students and parents with limited devices or transportation when it comes to completing enrollment packets, applying for free or reduced lunch programs, bus rider forms, and more.

Making it easier for families to complete a mobile-friendly online form from their smartphone, or receive a notification via email or text, is a meaningful step toward closing the information access gap.

2. Funding and budget constraints

Over the past several decades, K-12 school districts have continuously been tasked to do more with less—and less and less. Across the country, districts face ongoing funding and budget constraints that limit their ability to increase teacher and staff salaries, provide needed student programs and services, and invest in competitive learning tools and technologies.

One way districts have approached this challenge is by joining together to leverage their collective purchasing power. Organizations such as NCPA (National Cooperative Purchasing Alliance) and OMNIA Partners work to reduce the cost of goods and services for districts by galvanizing their purchasing power in all 50 states.

Participating districts receive the advantage of NCPA and OMNIA Partners state of the art procurement resources and the knowledge that technology vendors and suppliers have been properly vetted and uphold a commitment to delivering products and services of the highest quality at the most affordable prices.

3. Teacher and staff shortages/retention

According to limited federal data, as of October 2022, after the school year had already begun, 45% of U.S. public schools had at least one teacher vacancy. School districts nationwide are struggling to recruit and retain qualified teachers, particularly in high-needs areas such as special education, math, and science. It goes without saying, teacher shortages can lead to larger class sizes, lower teacher morale, and reduced academic performance.

Though there are many factors contributing to the teacher/staff hiring and retention problem, stagnating salaries play a noticeable role in job dissatisfaction. The budget constraints and reduced funding challenges we just discussed inevitably have an impact on a district’s ability to offer competitive salaries, signing bonuses and raises that will attract new teachers and keep existing ones engaged and thriving.

Affordable education technology offers districts a means to create greater efficiencies in administration and the classroom. By using strategically integrated technology to simplify administrative processes, districts can reduce burdensome non-teaching tasks and allow educators to focus their time on curriculum planning and learning. Actively investing in technology that lets teachers teach provides a level of job satisfaction desperately needed in today’s K-12 environment.

4. Student and staff mental health

You don’t have to go far to find a news headline today about the mental health crisis among our young people. Fallout from the pandemic, ongoing school safety concerns and the impact of social media have created an overwhelming increase in student stress and anxiety levels. We long for the days when children’s greatest fear was whether they would receive a passing grade in biology.

The negative impact on academic performance and overall student and staff well-being—both in and out of school—cannot be overstated. As more schools move to prioritize mental health support for students, teachers, and staff, one of the most valuable assets is knowledge.

Digitized information eliminates the delay and frustration of paper file searches and gives educators and administrators ready access to important student information, such as attendance records, grade reports, etc. These insights may indicate a student is struggling with their mental health and require attention, empowering staff to take proactive steps in serving their students’ best interests.

None of these four priority areas should be oversimplified. But K12 districts must start somewhere to begin moving forward and building momentum toward meaningful change. Educators, policymakers, parents and communities must come together to ensure all students have access to the high-quality educational resources and support they need to be successful. Education technology and the efficiencies it brings can serve as a catalyst for that collaboration and help districts drive toward progress despite the headwinds.

Hear how Lancaster County School District created districtwide efficiencies within Softdocs cloud-based platform.