Navigating K12 Device Repair After ESSER 

With ESSER funding ending, K12 tech repairs become a challenge. Discover how school districts can navigate device repair and refresh needs effectively.

The Elementary Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund has been a boon for the education sector over the last four years, particularly for supporting schools with an accelerated adoption of 1:1 student devices. Sadly, the days of ESSER are coming to an end. The final round of ESSER is about to expire and states only have until September 2024 to commit any remaining funds. If funds are obligated before the end of September, the committed funds can continue to be spent until the end of December 2024 (and if an extension is granted, they may continue to be spent through March 2026). 

Unfortunately, the sudden absence of ESSER funding is likely to put many elementary, middle, and high schools at budget shortfalls. Since ESSR funding has made up a substantial portion of K12 revenue over the last four years, this is going to cause a significant financial strain for many school districts navigating an increase in device repair and refresh needs. The negative impact of this loss will likely be made even worse by additional issues such as state tax cuts, inadequate funding formulas, pricing hikes (especially due to inflation), and the diversion of funds to school vouchers.  

The question keeping CTOs and other education IT leaders up at night is this—how will school districts continue to manage, maintain, and replace their fleets of aging K12 devices? There are a few options that may offer relief. 


What is ESSER? 

In March of 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, school districts were forced to find alternative teaching and learning opportunities as the nation—like much of the world—was put into lockdown mode. With social distancing requirements, students could no longer attend school in-person. Almost overnight, schools quickly pivoted to 100% digital learning, providing devices for every student to remotely participate in their education and requiring a significant investment from districts. 

To address this, Congress set aside roughly $13.2 billion of CARES Act funds for ESSER. These funds, called “ESSER I,” were awarded as grants to State Educational Agencies (SEAs) “for the purpose of providing local educational agencies (LEAs) … with relief funds to address the impact that COVID-19 has had, and continues to have, on elementary and secondary schools across the Nation.” 

In 2021, an additional $54.3 billion was provided for continued ESSER funding. This is referred to as “ESSER II.” Later that same year, the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act added another $122 billion in funding to the program, referred to as “ESSER ARP” or “ESSER III,” which was meant “to help safely reopen and sustain the same operation of schools and address the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the Nation’s students.” 

ESSERs I, II, and ARP/III funding made it possible for schools across the country to improve the technologies available to both faculty and students, while also enabling remote learning beyond anything previously implemented. In the last four years, we’ve seen school districts thrive with these new technologies; however, ESSER funding is set to expire later this year. This timing is unfortunate as devices—many either well out of warranty or in desperate need for repair or recertification—are coming due for a refresh. 


The End of ESSER Spells Trouble for K12 IT Resiliency 

As ESSER funding sunsets, K12 school districts are likely to face ongoing challenges to their IT resiliency, including many of the following: 

  • Additional pressure from 1:1 digital learning initiatives; 
  • Higher turnover of IT support staff; 
  • Higher breakage rates from accidental damage of student devices; 
  • Increase in lost assets for student devices, including cords/chargers for a variety of popular K12 technology (Chromebooks, Microsoft Surface, Apple MacBooks and iPads, Dell PCs, Lenovo ThinkPads, etc.); 
  • Rapidly aging devices with less opportunity for buybacks and less compatibility with evolving tech, such as AI; 
  • Cybersecurity scares and breaches; 
  • Rapid expansion of school districts; 
  • Lack of visibility into asset management and fleet status, including warranty and repair ticketing; and 
  • Limited resources to pursue critical IT projects. 

Long story short? Education is going to be facing these challenges soon—and with less funding to provide relief. But it’s not all bad news for school districts. Planning a strategic device refresh with built-in value—from tech support services to managed warranty and repair—can help schools get the most from their technology investment.


Navigating the K12 Repair Process in the Convergence Era 

For K12 tech repairs, school districts need more than just a break-fix strategy. They need full-service IT resiliency that not only minimizes costs, but also offers white glove tech support and drop-off services. They also need IT resiliency that enables increased productivity while modernizing cyber defenses.  

PCs and digital tools are no longer just educational luxuries. They are at the center of today’s learning environment. We are in a “Convergence Era,” in which K12 school districts must find a way to converge PC strategies with the learning needs of their students while also having an efficient repair process in place. Those who learn to properly navigate this new Convergence Era will also achieve the most successful learning outcomes: 

  • Increased efficiency  
  • Better performance  
  • Improved security 
  • Superior experience 

To navigate the waters of the Convergence Era successfully, however, school districts need more than just an experience repair company—school districts will need to pivot towards an Education Technology as a Service (ETaaS) model of K12 tech repairs.

What is ETaaS? 

ETaaS (or EdTech as a Service), can help school districts achieve predictable, cost-efficient consumption and repair services at speed and scale for a better overall user experience. This is achieved by making sure you’re getting the right device to the right person at the right time—every single time. UDT ETaaS offers a OpEx-based subscription model that provides complete device services in a number of key areas: 

  • Asset Management: Empower decision making for your asset management strategy with insights that drive strategic device purchases aligned inventory and projected needs. 
  • Order Management: Streamline complexity while reducing risk and costs with an advanced ERP engine that automates detailed, high-volume inventory activities. 
  • Facilities: Scale operational readiness with secure, efficient warehousing to mitigate supply chain issues and protect assets. 
  • Operations: Deliver high-quality user outcomes at scale and speed with expert service operations to help you achieve greater productivity and experience. 

ESSER funding may be coming to a close, but that doesn’t mean your school district has to lose the technological edge it has gained over the last four years. With UDT ETaaS, any school district can still maximize student and faculty productivity while minimizing security risks and delivering the best possible user experience at the lowest possible cost.


Go Beyond Device Repairs—Achieve Sustainable Technology Outcomes 

We currently serve the technology and security needs of 8 of the 10 largest school districts in the United States, but our scalability means we can accommodate districts both large and small—and we’d love the opportunity to partner with yours. To learn more about how UDT ETaaS can serve the technology needs of your school district, or to schedule an initial consultation, contact us today and allow our experienced team to help you plan for the future. 

Would you like to know more?

Check out our K12 resources, including our on-demand webinar, “How School Districts can Achieve a Sustainable Device Break/Fix Model After ESSER.”

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