New Jersey is hoping to put more than $50 million toward addressing a digital divide that officials estimate affects more than 200,000 schoolchildren.
Gov. Phil Murphy on Thursday announced a plan to combine federal coronavirus funds with philanthropic money and in-kind contributions.
The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting switch to remote learning has “exposed an untenable divide,” the Democrat said. "Not every student has a laptop or other device, or a reliable connection to the internet in their home.”
The state Department of Education has estimated that 230,000 children have been hampered by a lack of access to technology. Murphy said nearly 5,000 students have been affected in Irvington, where Thursday's announcement took place. That amounts to more than half of all students in the district.
New Jersey closed schools in March and shifted to remote learning. Murphy announced last month that in-person instruction will be required this fall as long as COVID-19 trends don't worsen. Districts have latitude to decide the number of days schools require students to report in person, and whether they also use online learning.
To assist in providing technology and assistance, the state’s Department of Education will make $10 million initially in relief funds already earmarked for schools, and commit up to $44 million more depending on the level of philanthropic investment.
School districts will be able to apply for funds beginning next week.