SACRAMENTO — State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond is reaching out to more than 100 of California’s top private industry partners, businesses, and donors with a new call to action: contribute to a $500 million initiative that would provide computing and connectivity devices to all of California’s public school students in need.
The $500 million estimate targets computing devices and internet hotspots. Thurmond estimates it could cost an additional $6 billion to expand and improve broadband infrastructure to all Californians in need.
“While we have made good progress in our efforts to close the digital divide, hundreds of thousands of our most vulnerable students and families still lack access to the basic tools needed to connect to their learning. In today’s world, technology is as important as electricity,” Thurmond said. “I am calling on our private industry partners to make this investment in students now, as it will yield countless dividends in the years ahead. Our students are the future innovators and leaders of one of the world’s largest, most diverse, and forward-thinking economies.”
According to Thurmond, out of California’s 6.2 million students, more than 700,000 do not have a computing device at home. Additionally, more than 300,000 lack access to the internet. When physical school campuses closed statewide due to COVID-19 in March, almost a fifth of California’s students could not participate in digital distance learning, which also means they could not access tutoring, guidance counselors, school nurses, librarians, administrators, and parent/family resource centers.
In April, Thurmond launched the Closing the Digital Divide Task Force with a goal of forging new public-private partnerships with legislators, state agencies, internet service providers, technology companies, education entities, and more. Along with expanding access to computing devices and internet hotspots, the task force is also exploring solutions to providing high-speed internet access to every public school student in the state.
The task force, co-chaired by Senator Connie Leyva (D-Chino), has held multiple hearings and asked that internet service providers expand free or low-cost service to households in need. Meetings of the task force are archived online on the California Department of Education Facebook page.
Businesses or individuals that are considering making a tax-deductible contribution to help close the digital divide in California are invited to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The California Department of Education is a state agency led by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond. For more information, please visit the California Department of Education’s website.