School districts in Georgia will share $36.7 million in state technology grants to help bring high-speed broadband to more schools across the state to ensure they can stay up to date with advances in digital learning.
The grants, which will be awarded to 103 local education authorities (LEAs), come from the state’s Connections for Classrooms program, between the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement (GOSA), the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) and the One Georgia Authority (OGA).
“It’s imperative that Georgia’s students have access to new, state-of-the-art technology in order to learn necessary 21st century skills and succeed in our economy,” Gov. Nathan Deal said in a statement. “In 2012, I created and charged my Digital Learning Task Force with developing a cohesive strategy to improve student achievement through digital learning implementation across the state. A key portion of its recommendations was to build out the technology infrastructure necessary for effective digital learning, and these funds will go a long way toward helping us achieve that goal and bridge the digital divide in our school.”
The Connections for Classrooms grant program is part of a broader effort that includes expanding the University System of Georgia’s Peachnet network to connect every Georgia LEA to its high-speed network.
The partnership between GaDOE and USG will ensure that all district central offices have 100 megabits of bandwidth per second, per school by July 2015 to ensure that schools have sufficient network infrastructure to effectively utilize that increased bandwidth at the classroom level.
“As technology advances, educators have an unprecedented opportunity to provide personalized learning to every student,” state Superintendent John Barge said. “However, schools cannot fully take advantage of that opportunity without access to adequate infrastructure. Through this program and others, we are working to ensure that every Georgia classroom is fully equipped for digital learning.”
Applicants were required to detail their technology expansion plans and explain how grant awards would enable them to implement digital and blended learning and improve student achievement. This year, 102 districts and one state charter school received grant awards.
The five top scoring districts — Thomas, Peach, Tattnall, Ben Hill and Laurens counties — will receive full funding to have wireless built out to every classroom once grant funds are paired with estimated federal E-Rate funds.
The amount the state will receive in E-Rate funds is still in limbo after the Federal Communications Commission voted earlier this year to update the E-Rate Program, its first major revision since its creation in 1997.
While the program is expected to greatly help school districts connect to broadband by providing discounted prices for service, jurisdictions are still unsure how much they will receive under the new funding algorithms associated with the program’s updates.
The access to broadband Internet has become a major factor for school districts across the nation over recent years as more and more school districts are working to put computing devices in the hands of each student. That presents the challenge though of having hundreds – if not thousands in some large school districts – of devices trying to connect at one time during the school day.