Gov. Kim Reynolds and the Iowa Department of Education today announced that $26.2 million is now available to districts, nonpublic schools, and colleges and universities primarily to increase internet connectivity for students for the 2020-21 school year.
Using the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund, authorized under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, $19.3 million in awards will go to all 327 school districts and nonpublic schools. The remaining $6.9 million will be earmarked for public and private two- and four-year colleges and universities.
“During an unprecedented pandemic, we have had to adapt, innovate, and change the way we do business. Expanding high-quality broadband connectivity is more important than ever for telelearning, telework and telehealth,” said Gov. Reynolds. “This funding will play a critical role in our children’s education, helping to close significant gaps in broadband access for rural schools.”
“This is an important step toward ensuring our students and teachers have reliable access to the internet,” said Ann Lebo, director of the Iowa Department of Education. “In an increasingly technology-driven world, it is essential that we overcome the digital divide.”
The education department will send the awards directly to districts, which may use them to lease hotspots, provide a discount on broadband internet service or loan devices to qualifying households. The award amount for each district is based on the estimated number of households that lack internet access or struggle to afford it. Allocations are based on a survey the state conducted in June as well as information from the American Community Survey of the U.S. Census Bureau.
The $6.9 million earmarked for public and private colleges and universities may be spent to improve connectivity for students or provide professional development for faculty in online instruction. It will require an application to the department.