A lack of access to broadband internet and technology has long been a challenge across Minnesota, but the move to distance learning last spring quickly revealed the severity. With distance learning still a potential scenario for the upcoming school year, the State of Minnesota is responding to meet needs of families with school-aged children. But it’s not happening on Capitol Hill.
The State of Minnesota formed a public-private partnership of philanthropic and business leaders from across Minnesota to bring technology devices and internet access to students across the state before the start of the school year. They’re focused on those most in need, including Indigenous students and students of color, students from low-income families, and families residing in rural Minnesota.
Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan on Tuesday announced this effort known as Partnership for a ConnectedMN. It is led by Best Buy, Comcast, Blandin Foundation, Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation and the Minnesota Business Partnership, in collaboration with the State of Minnesota.
“I’m grateful to see Minnesota companies step up and help meet the needs of students,” said Governor Walz.“We need to work together — as individuals, state agencies, private companies, and schools — to face the opportunity gap and make sure that Minnesota is the best state for each and every child to grow up and receive the best education possible.”
- Business and philanthropic leaders have collectively raised $1.65 million to date.
- Gov. Walz prioritized the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) dollars to meet technology and connectivity challenges, with about $14 million earmarked for districts to prioritize devices and connectivity.
- MDE prioritized distributions of GEER and the discretionary Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund dollars to districts with the highest numbers of students receiving special education, students of color, homeless students, English language learners, and students who qualify for free-and reduced-price meals. Districts applying for these funds should visit MDE’s website.
In addition, the partnership will work to create solutions to the lack of reliable, affordable broadband access in communities around the state, so students have the tools necessary to connect and engage around school, physical and mental health, and future career pathways.
The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) estimates that at least 25,000 Minnesota students lack the technology and high-speed internet access essential for academic learning, out-of-school activities and critical services such as telehealth. These students are disproportionately students of color, Indigenous students, and low-income students.
A new national report on the digital divide reported much higher numbers of students without quality access, based on its assessment and methodology. View the state-by-state report.
Applying for Partnership Funds
Partnership for a ConnectedMN’s application process will be available later in July. The Governor and State do not have a role in fundraising or directing funds for the Partnership for a ConnectedMN. More information on ConnectedMN can be found at www.connectedmn.us.