Gov. J.B. Pritzker and ISBE announced that 471 local school districts will receive funding from a total of $80,092,677 through the Digital Equity Formula Grant under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act that directs federal funding to governors and education agencies in the state to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“With this commitment of $80 million in funding to closing the digital divide, we are building on the same goals we’ve pushed since the beginning of my administration, creating a pipeline of high-quality learning from cradle to career,” Pritzker said in the Monday release. “Throughout this crisis, I have been so impressed to see all the creative ways superintendents and teachers adapted to the pandemic, a spirit of ingenuity that stretched up into our higher education institutions, too. This pandemic has heightened every inequality and injustice in our nation and our educators are on the front lines of seeing our young people through this moment.”
More than 1.2 million students are starting the 2020-21 school year with remote learning in place and approximately 528,000 are learning in a blended or hybrid environment, comprising nearly 92 percent of all students in Illinois, the release said. The Digital Equity Formula Grant will help ensure students have the technology they need to access equitable learning opportunities.
Many school districts have already purchased devices and expanded connectivity since the pandemic began, and they may use the grant to purchase additional devices or to cover purchases made since March 13. The districts will receive reimbursement after submitting an application and quarterly expenditure reports.
VVSD students have been fully remote since the beginning of the school year and the decision to transition to a possibly hybrid learning model will be made in October.
The grant allocates funding to the highest-need districts in the state that are below 70 percent of Adequacy in the 2020 or 20201 fiscal years.
“Closing the digital divide has been a priority for the agency since March, when the pandemic forced schools statewide to suddenly shift to remote learning,” said State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen I. Ayala. “We saw in the spring that many schools did not have the technology or internet access necessary to connect students and teachers in real-time and to facilitate meaningful remote instruction. We have learned and prepared a lot since the spring, and we are excited to provide our highest-need schools the Digital Equity Formula Grant to strengthen their digital infrastructure this fall and for years to come.”
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