Iowa receives $26.2 million in emergency education relief to expand broadband access
DES MOINES — Gov. Kim Reynolds and the Iowa Department of Education today announced the state has received $26.2 million in federal relief to ensure education continues for students of all ages impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Iowa’s grant is part of the nearly $3 billion Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The GEER fund allows governors to determine how to best meet the needs of students in public and non-public schools, postsecondary institutions, and other education-related organizations.
Better enabling remote learning for K-12 and postsecondary students is the goal of Iowa’s GEER application. It focuses on providing and expanding broadband access and improving access to technology in other ways. That could include providing Wi-Fi hotspots and devices. Funding also may be used to offer professional development related to remote learning to educators in school districts and non-public schools as well as in public and private colleges and universities.
“Rapidly expanding and improving broadband access is essential for our state’s future,” said Gov. Reynolds. “As we have seen with a pandemic and an ever-changing economy, learning must continue beyond the classroom. These resources will equip Iowa schools and educators to pave a pathway for student success in the growing digital classroom and future workplace.”
“Superintendents told us better connectivity is what they need most to provide high-quality learning for all students during the pandemic,” said Iowa Department of Education Director Ann Lebo. “We have students without access to the technology they need and Iowa’s GEER grant is an important step toward solving that problem. I am so proud of the work school leaders and teachers are doing, and that we can help support it in this way.”
The Iowa Department of Education in collaboration with the State Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) is conducting a statewide survey regarding barriers Iowans face to remote learning, including broadband access. The household survey targets families with K-12 students but also asks about college students. The intent is to prioritize areas of the state with the greatest need based on the survey results.
These GEER funds are in addition to the $71.6 million Iowa received in federal relief for PK-12 schools through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund within the CARES Act.
The Iowa Department of Education will provide more information soon about how the GEER funding will be allocated.