At his daily press briefing on Monday, April 20, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom announced new partnerships and philanthropic donations that will provide internet access and devices to support the state’s distance learning programs.
As local educational agencies transition into distance learning, there are still thousands of households who do not have access to reliable internet or devices that are needed for students to effectively participate in virtual learning.
The state has been looking to establish partnerships with technology companies in order to close this digital divide. Earlier this month, Governor Newsom announced that the state was partnering with Google to provide 4,000 Chromebooks and mobile Wi-Fi hotspots for students (see “Google-California Partnership: Closing the Digital Divide” in the April 2020 Fiscal Report).
That same day, Governor Newsom issued a call to action to business, government, and community leaders to “meet this moment” and help bridge this technology gap. On Monday, Governor Newsom said that several of these tech giants and philanthropic organizations have answered this call by announcing the following partnerships and monetary donations (a full list can be found here):
- T-Mobile is donating 13,000 tablet devices, in addition to the previously-announced 100,000 hotspot devices (for which they partnered with Google)
- Amazon is donating 10,000 tablet devices
- Apple is working with 800 school districts across the state offering free coaching sessions to teachers to assist with the transition to distance learning
- Apple is offering special pricing for iPads and has given the equivalent of 9,000 iPads to ensure the most vulnerable students in the state have access
- Verizon is partnering with the state to provide 250,000 students with unlimited internet service at a discount
- HP Inc. is donating 5,000 Chromebooks and launching HP Refresh with dedicated resources to the state
- Lenovo is donating 4,000 Chromebooks
- Box is donating free 12-month licenses to its secure file-sharing services (up to $1 million) for school districts to enable administrators and teachers to collaborate
- An anonymous foundation is donating $500,000 for Los Angeles County public schools
- AT&T is donating $300,000 for devices and $250,000 for distance learning programs
- Microsoft is donating 1,000 Surface tablets
- Over $6.3 million in direct donations from individuals and philanthropic organizations
The monetary donations will be deposited into a fund established at the California Department of Education (CDE) Foundation, which they will use to bulk-purchase devices for school districts to distribute to students. Prioritization for these devices will be given to rural and low-income communities.
The Governor also announced that the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) is partnering with the CDE for the Broadband in Schools Initiative, which will allocate up to $30 million to support connectivity for students. As part of this initiative, the PUC will make $25 million available to the California Teleconnect Fund to purchase internet hotspots and devices for students. School districts will be able to apply for discounts on these devices and monthly recurring service charges until September 30, 2020. The program will prioritize rural, small, and medium-sized school districts. More information, including how to apply, can be found here.
The PUC is also proposing to make $5 million available to the California Advanced Services Fund to help cover the costs of internet and hotspot devices. The CDE will review requests and coordinate purchases that prioritize low-income communities, communities with high percentages of English learners, and communities with limited education attainment. More information about this fund can be found here.
Finally, if you are a school district that is looking to access the devices being made available via the public-private partnerships and philanthropic donations, it is imperative that you fill out the CDE Survey for School Districts Distance Learning Resources. This is the document that the CDE is using to determine how to distribute the devices being made available through these various partnerships and donations, so it is important to complete this survey as soon as possible.