By Jessica Zaleski
If you’re an instructional materials coordinator in Texas, you know how important IMA funds* are when it comes to getting your students the materials they need to succeed. And you also know that sometimes working with your IMA funds can be a little overwhelming.
That’s why we’ve enlisted Duncanville ISD’s IM Coordinator Misty Fisher to give her insight into how districts can ensure they are maximizing their IMA funds. Read on as Misty shares the top four tips she’s learned during her nine years as an IM coordinator. Misty also serves as a Board of Directors on the IMCAT board and is the current President for NTTCA.
Every district in Texas is entitled to an Instructional Materials Allotment (aka IMA Funds). The purpose of these funds is for the purchase of instructional materials, technology equipment, and technology-related services. If you’re a new instructional materials coordinator, knowing how to maintain and use IMA funds at your district may seem confusing at first.
This is my sixth year working with IMA funds at my district, and I’ve learned a lot along the way about utilizing these funds in a way that benefits our staff and students best. Here are some of the most important tips I’ve gathered.
1. Create an All-Star IMA Funds Team
You can’t do it alone. Assembling an all-star team that consists of staff members from various departments at your district will be extremely helpful when deciding the best ways to use your funds. I recommend including someone on the team from each of the following departments: Finance, Purchasing, Technology, Curriculum, Instructional Staff, Distribution, a Superintendent, and a District IM Coordinator. Establishing a collaborative environment across departments will help create a consistent vision for the use of state instructional material funds that align with the district’s initiatives.
As departments bring their wish lists to the group for funding evaluation, other departments can weigh in with their expertise. For example, your technology representative will know if your district’s infrastructure will support the digital materials you intend to purchase, and a curriculum delegate can assist with reviewing materials to ensure you’re meeting the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) standards.
Bring these department experts together every six weeks, and if it’s an adoption year, you may want to meet more frequently until you’ve made your decisions.
2. Ensure an Annual Physical Inventory is Conducted
Because it is Texas state law to audit your campuses, I do an inventory at each campus in my district every single year. It’s more important now than ever before. Before Senate Bill 6 was passed a few years ago, there used to be a state maximum price of $85 a book, but now the state only allows for $85-$100 per student in the allotment, meaning that if there are two different subject areas, you only have about $40-$50 per student per subject. So, if there is more than one adoption in the year, you may not have enough money for multiple materials per student. Conduct annual inventories so you know what is lost/missing. It’s crucial to collect money for those items and hold owners accountable so you’re able to replace the materials with those recouped funds. If you don’t do that, you’ll start to notice that your district is spending its budget replacing materials. With less funds available to purchase new adoptions, budgeting and planning for curriculum initiatives becomes challenging. You might find yourself scrambling to come up with funds or trying to determine how to make your old materials last for yet another year because you’re having to delay new purchases.
3. Prep Early
If you haven’t spent all of your IMA funds for the year, start saving every dollar you can so you can use the money for upcoming new adoptions. While materials adopted for the upcoming Proclamation 17 won’t be in your classrooms until the 2017-2018 school year, there are still tasks you can accomplish now to prepare your district. Start meeting this spring with your curriculum coordinators to discuss materials, so you can begin ordering your samples from publishers. This step is extremely important because samples of materials are no longer automatically delivered like they used to be.
Once you have those samples, you can review them and have your decision made by this time next year instead of scrambling at the last minute.
4. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
If you’re new to the IM coordinator role and have questions about IMA funds (or anything else), you can’t be afraid to reach out to somebody more experienced and communicate with them. Find a group/association of textbook coordinators to be a part of. You can go to the IMCAT website and join the association to be connected with other experienced textbook coordinators, and they meet two times a year. In North Texas, we have NTTCA (North Texas Textbook Coordinators Association), and we meet four times a year. Region 4 and Region 7 in Texas also have their own associations. Come to a meeting, and speak with a presenter or someone who is running the meeting. I guarantee they will be happy to answer your questions because they were in your position once too.
What tips do you have for making the most of your IMA funds? Let us know in the comments!
*As a district leader, you’re well aware that you can purchase textbooks, technology devices, and other instructional resources with your IMA funds, but did you know that your IMA funds could also be used for inventory software? With IMA funds, you can purchase TIPWeb-IM (textbook management software) or TIPWeb-IT (asset management software) to manage the location, assignment, status, and funding history of your inventory. Our licensing and services are highly configurable to the goals and needs of your district office and schools, and we can work with you to get a price quote ready for the TEA disbursement review process. Want to know more? Contact you Hayes Software Systems Representative here.