Addressing The Digital Divide Through Government Funding

When COVID-19 hit hard in March, no one could have imagined the impact it would have on everyday life; ten months later and we are still fighting and adjusting to the changes thrown our way. One area in particular has had to adjust rapidly to an entirely new way of doing things: education. In general, kids are having to learn from home, which has presented significant challenges for numerous children. There are many kids that, due to either their economic status or their location, cannot easily access the online education materials that their schools are providing.

It is up to the schools and the communities they serve to do their best to help these children have the bright future that a proper education can provide. Already, we can see a huge digital divide growing. “Around 1 in 10 of the poorest children in the U.S. has little or no access to technology for learning. 12.2 percent of respondents from households earning less than $25,000 a year said a digital device was rarely or never available for a child to use for learning and 9.8 percent said the same of the internet.” (Source)

Thankfully, there are a number of ways that schools can address these shortfalls. Schools across the country have been utilizing government programs to aid in expanding their IT departments and their students’ ability to connect.

The pandemic and remote learning have changed the landscape of our education system. IT departments and educators have scrambled to overcome these new hurdles, already making great strides to help their students adapt.

Initiatives for narrowing the digital divide include:

  • Prepare networks for expansion
    • Educational networks are taking on bigger and bigger burdens as time goes on. Preparing your network to expand rapidly to meet increased demand is vital. You can read a Network Readiness Guide here.
  • Secure reliable methods of connectivity for children, especially those in rural/disadvantaged areas.
    • Read a case study here about how Cisco Meraki helped Texas schools create a new network for learning.
    • Read a case study about how a rural school in California provided equal access to technology here.

 AVAILABLE SCHOOL TECHNOLOGY FUNDING

These are four of the programs that schools/libraries can use to help
their students access educational materials and resources. To explore your
funding options and discuss technology solutions for your district, connect with a GMI School Funding Expert. 

E-RATE

E-Rate is the largest technology-related funding available to public schools and libraries. $3.9 Billion is released annually by the FCC to close the technology gaps in education and learning needs. In 2020, the FCC increased the E-Rate funding, creating an opportunity for school districts to upgrade their network infrastructure to better support their population and network to meet the needs of today and the future of learning.

What E-Rate Covers

 

Schools and libraries that meet eligibility requirements can receive discounts of 20-90% off telecommunications, telecommunications services, internet access, internal connections, managed internal broadband services, and basic maintenance of internal connections.

There are two categories of services:

  • Category 1: Data Transmission/Internet Access
  • Category 2: Internal Connections (IC), Managed
    Internal Broadband Services (MIBS), and Basic Maintenance of Internal
    Connections (BMIC)

You can see a list of eligible services here.

  • 2020 eligible services are here.
  • 2021 eligible services are here.

Rural Utilities Service Distance Learning & Telemedicine Grants (RUS-DLT)

What is RUS-DLT?

The Distance Learning and Telemedicine program helps rural communities use the unique capabilities of telecommunications to connect to each other and to the world, overcoming the effects of remoteness and low population density. (Source)

RUS-DLT Covers:

  • Broadband facilities
  • Audio, video and interactive video equipment
  • Terminal and data terminal equipment
  • Computer hardware, network components and software
  • Inside wiring and similar infrastructure that further DLT service
  • Acquisition of instructional programming that is a capital asset
  • Acquisition of technical assistance and instruction for using eligible equipment

The School Violence Prevention Program (SVPP)

What is the SVPP?

 

 

The Students, Teachers, and Officers Preventing School Violence Act of 2018 (STOP School Violence Act of 2018) gave the COPS Office authority to provide awards directly to states, units of local government, or Indian tribes to improve security at schools and on school grounds in the jurisdiction of the grantee through evidence-based school safety programs. (Source)

SVPP covers:

 

  • Video surveillance
  • Communication equipment such as call boxes, intercoms/PA systems, and
    alarm notification systems
  • Emergency alerts such as automated texts/emails
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (The CARES Act)
 

What is the CARES Act?

  • The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act created the $30.75 billion Education Stabilization Fund, which provides $13.5 billion for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund to assist K-12 schools with the coronavirus (COVID-19) national pandemic. (Source)
  • The CARES act created a $30.75 billion Education Stabilization Fund to assist schools adjust to life during the pandemic.

 

HELP TO SECURE FUNDING

GMI has worked with over 100 school districts to build a technology plan and then implement that plan once funding is secured.  We believe a successful E-Rate program begins with thoughtful planning before even the first application is filed and are here to work with you at every step of the process.

Our e-rate experts can help:

 

  • determine the level of funding allocated to your district
  • engineer your network solution for your technology plan
  • walk you through how to receive your funding
  • help maximize your E-Rate funding through compliance and accurate record-keeping

Connect with a GMI School Technology Expert to explore funding options for your district.

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