HARTFORD, CT) – Governor Ned Lamont today announced that Connecticut is the first state in the nation to provide a learning device to every PK-12 student in need, achieving a major milestone in the fight to close the K-12 digital divide in Connecticut, particularly as many schools move toward remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. The governor committed to closing the state’s PK-12 digital divide by purchasing every student who indicated a need with a learning device and a reliable, at-home internet connection.
Since the outset of the pandemic earlier this year, every local school district has been sharing data with the State Department of Education on the number of students who indicated that they were without a learning device or internet connection in their homes. Using this data, the nonprofit organization Partnership for Connecticut spent $24 million in March to provide 60,000 laptops to high school students in need. In July, Governor Lamont launched the Everybody Learns initiative, which included a $43.5 million investment from the state’s portion of the federal CARES Act, to purchase 82,000 laptops and 44,000 at-home internet connections for Connecticut students. Combined, these two initiatives have invested more money per student in remote learning since March than all but two other states in the nation and makes Connecticut a leader among Northeast states.
“One of my top priorities during the COVID-19 pandemic has been to minimize learning disruptions for Connecticut students and see that every K-12 student has the educational technologies they need to thrive in school,” Governor Lamont said. “Over the past eight months, we made significant progress in closing digital divides, especially for students of color and those in low-income communities. The work does not end here. My administration will continue to fight to ensure every last student in Connecticut receives a high-quality education, whether in person or remotely. I also want to extend my warmest thanks to Barbara and Ray Dalio for their partnership with the state and generosity in ensuring our neediest high school students received 60,000 laptops at the outset of this pandemic.”
“One of the core lessons learned from last spring was that we must aggressively tackle our PK-12 digital divide if remote learning was part of our future normal,” Connecticut Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona said. “Under the leadership of Governor Lamont and through the partnership of Ray and Barbara Dalio and so many committed stakeholders, we did that by collectively expanding access to devices and connectivity to help level the playing field and address the disparities exacerbated by the pandemic. We are now leading the nation in removing the tech barriers that stood in the way of every child receiving a world-class education. While today’s milestone is one to be celebrated, we need to continue leading with a laser-like focus on accelerating learning and prioritizing equitable access to high quality content, especially for our most vulnerable students.”
“Achieving this milestone in closing the digital divide for our PK-12 students is a reflection of the achievements we can make when we all come together and step up for our students,” Melissa McCaw, Secretary of the Connecticut Office of Policy and Management, said. “There are few responsibilities more important to the State of Connecticut than devoting our resources to ensure all students can access educational opportunities in the midst of a public health pandemic and that is why Connecticut devoted $266 million of its CARES Act funds to support our schools during this challenging time – one of the highest per-pupil allocations of this money of any state in the country. Investing in our children and closing this digital divide was an absolute necessity and is indicative of Connecticut’s commitment to building upon its status as one of the best states for public education in the country both for learning in the classroom and at home.”
Educational ambassadors across the nation extended congratulations to Connecticut on this milestone in educational equity.
“I applaud Governor Ned Lamont and all of Connecticut for being the first state in the nation to achieve this milestone in ending the digital divide,” Arne Duncan, former U.S. Education Secretary under President Barack Obama, said. “This pandemic has made it abundantly clear that in the 21st century, all students deserve access to the educational resources they need to thrive not only in the classroom but also at home. Thanks to the remarkable work of Governor Lamont and the State of Connecticut, our nation is one step closer to closing our digital divide and achieving equitable educational opportunities for all students.”
“I applaud Governor Ned Lamont and the State of Connecticut for their extraordinary fight to provide internet access and devices to all students in the Nutmeg State,” Adam Safir, director of the Office of Education Technology at the U.S. Department of Education, said. “The innovative public-private partnerships and bulk purchasing models they developed to help Connecticut students learn anytime, anywhere are great examples of putting CARES Act funding to its best use.”
“Closing the digital divide is vital to ensuring students’ ability to continue their education during the COVID-19 pandemic,” John B. King Jr., president and CEO of The Education Trust and former U.S. Education Secretary under President Obama, said. “I want to commend Governor Lamont and the leaders of Connecticut’s school system for working together with philanthropic and private sector partners to implement a plan that will provide a device and home internet access to every student in the state. These resources are most essential for students who are too often shortchanged. I encourage the governor and leaders to prioritize the continuous engagement and learning of Connecticut’s most underserved students.”
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