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.
“Expanding high-quality broadband access 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 access for rural schools. If we want to succeed in the 21st century we have to invest, innovate, and address this inequity in our education system.”
“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.