December 6, 2021 | Larry Buchweitz
For companies serving educators, the COVID–19 pandemic pushed certain K–12 priorities to the forefront: Learning loss. The digital divide. Social–emotional learning. New curriculums and technology solutions. Software. Hardware. Infrastructure. All with no instructions on how to get it paid for.
So what’s the answer? First, it’s about having the best data. But marketing data has always been about reaching the right people – and knowing what to say when you find them.
First, understand the funding environment
Before you begin marketing to schools, you should understand that they receive funding from a range of sources, and they’re all unique. For example, schools that qualify for federal Title I funding serve high percentages of children from low–income families, based on formulas measuring census poverty numbers and the cost of education in each state.
Currently, according to the Department of Education, more than half of all U.S. schoolchildren — about 25 million — in about 60% of public schools receive some Title I funding. This number is so high because if a school is designated a Title I school, then all the children attending are eligible for supplemental programming. (Although Title I funds are the biggest federal supplements, other “Title” funds are also available to help students who have burdens that may get in the way of equitable education: poverty, homelessness, living in state–run institutions or isolated rural districts, and other factors.)
However, not all schools qualify for Title I, and most districts see a hefty percentage of their funding come from local property taxes as well as state–level budgets. These districts, especially in higher–income suburbs, have buying power and more flexibility in terms of justifying their spending.
Three rounds of emergency funding triggered by the COVID–19 pandemic mean that even affluent districts are seeing a one–time influx of federal dollars – if they can justify it. Being able to access district–by–district funding data gives education marketers an edge as they strategize during this unique period.
Research how schools are spending billions
You should also understand the unprecedented situation federal funding brought about this year. The most recent round of federal funds, called the American Rescue Plan, provides $122 billion in emergency funding for schools. This follows $13.2 billion from the 2020 CARES Act and $54.3 billion from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, or CRRSA. Federal guidelines require that at least 90% of this money be passed on to local educational agencies, with at least 20% of those funds for learning loss through "evidence–based interventions."
Research from FutureEd and other organizations on spending plans reveals how education officials are trying to use these one–time funds to address learning loss, mental health, staffing crises and equity concerns.
As Bloomberg reports, "More than half have earmarked funds for summer learning, with an average spend of over $2 million where disclosed. About a third are using it to pay for transportation, and nearly a quarter plan to invest in online platforms."
Popular one–time spending usages also include staffing and tutoring needs, student assessment tools, HVAC improvements, and mobile technology for students. Educational trends are pushing tools for social–emotional learning, STEM curriculums, and EdTech–powered learning models to the top of the list as well.
Run through possible scenarios
Once you strategize which states and institutions to market your product to, it’s critical to reach the right audience with the right message. For example, let’s say you have a great curriculum tool that students will love. It will boost test scores, empower instructors and drive classroom enthusiasm. You should get that idea in front of teachers, right? Well, not necessarily.
Teachers are often influencers for buyers, and they spend a lot of their own money on tools, too. But larger purchasing decisions are often made in other offices, especially on the district level where federal funds come into play.
MCH education marketing experts frequently help marketers determine which districts have a need for their products, then help them narrow down which job titles and specific education leaders to target from the millions of contacts and emails in the K–12 database. This helps companies spark discussions on how they can help districts get approval to spend more on services that qualify for federal funding.
Superintendents and those in charge of grants and Title I funding are a good place to start with large districts. Just a few of the job titles for decision–makers above and beyond the classroom level that are available in the MCH education database include:
Every school and district is structured differently, and some of those in the position to make purchases are open to help with acquiring funding if they’re interested in a product. Businesses that can help districts take advantage of emergency funding will be better positioned for longer–term partnerships in the future.
Are you ready to run your ideas past one of our education marketing experts? Give MCH a call at 800–776–6373. We’ve got strategies for narrowing down districts, finding the right decision–makers within your target K–12 institutions, and even how to craft your messaging.
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