On Monday, Governor Newsom announced his latest efforts to support students and teachers continuing to struggle with distance learning amid COVID-19 school closures. The Governor’s announcement outlined two distinct facets of the Administration’s actions aimed at addressing the most severely impacted school districts in the state, utilizing both existing public funding, as well as new private resources.
Specifically, the Governor announced equipment donations by technology companies, including laptops, Chromebooks, tablets and mobile hotspots, as well as large monetary donations by individuals, businesses and organizations. In addition, several internet service providers committed to offering connectivity to students at discount rates. All donations will be managed by the private nonprofit Californians Dedicated to Education (CDE) Foundation and will be distributed to low-income and rural school districts.
The Governor also announced the availability of $25 million from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) Teleconnect Fund for rural, small, and medium school districts, to cover 50 percent of the cost for mobile hotspots and monthly internet service for student households. The Teleconnect Fund was created to provide qualifying K-12 schools, community colleges, libraries, hospitals, health clinics, and community-based organizations discounts for telecommunications services.
In addition to the Teleconnect Fund allocation, the Governor cited the availability of another $5 million in funding from the CPUC California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) for computer equipment and mobile hotspots, to be expended by the California Department of Education in order to leverage bulk purchasing of equipment for distribution. RCRC has strongly advocated for the utilization of existing broadband funding to triage distance learning connectivity issues during the current crisis, while maintaining that such an investment is not in lieu of addressing the continued need for reliable, high quality fiber networks in rural communities. The CASF funding proposal will come before the CPUC on May 7, 2020 for a final decision. The CPUC Resolution can be found here and the RCRC comments submitted April 9th can be found here.
The full text of the Governor’s April 20, 2020 press release can be found here.