New state grants awarded to schools to provide high-speed internet access

January 12, 2017

MHTA — Lt. Governor Tina Smith and Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius  announced new state grants that will help 12 school districts provide students with the high-speed internet connections needed to complete homework and access other online learning opportunities.

Without this funding, these students would lack access to reliable high-speed internet, putting them at a competitive disadvantage with their urban peers. The grants awarded today will be used to provide students wireless access at home and while riding the school bus.

“Too many Minnesota students are on the wrong side of the digital divide. These grants will help level the playing field for students in Greater Minnesota by providing them the same educational opportunities as their friends and family in the cities,” said Lt. Governor Tina Smith. “Governor Dayton and I will continue advocating for high speed, affordable, reliable internet access until all Minnesota students and families are connected.”

Lake of the Woods School District, which received grant funding, reports that students spend more than two hours a day riding the bus to and from school. Students participating in extracurricular activities often have even longer bus rides. This experience is common for students in rural districts across Greater Minnesota.

The new grant funding will allow districts to equip buses with wireless hotspots, enabling students to complete homework while commuting. The funding also will be used to purchase wireless hotspots, data cards, and other mobile broadband devices that students will be able to check out for use at home.

“Technology is a part of Minnesota classrooms. If we want all students to be successful, we need to make sure we are providing them the tools they need,” said Commissioner Cassellius. “Where a student lives and their family income should not determine whether they are able to complete their schoolwork or not.”

In 2016, the Dayton-Smith Administration worked with the Minnesota Legislature to invest $500,000 in grants for school-based high-speed internet. These grants are designed to expand broadband access to students across Minnesota, with priority given to applicants demonstrating a combination of students from low-income families and with long bus routes. Low-income homes with children are four times more likely to be without broadband than their middle or upper-income counterparts, according to the Pew Research Center.

Given the limited funding, only 12 of the 33 applicants were awarded funding – highlighting the ongoing need for investment in rural high-speed internet. Of the 12 districts receiving funding, 11 are in Greater Minnesota. The legislation capped the grants at $50,000 per district.

See a list of school districts awarded broadband grants below.

School District Broadband Grant Award
Deer River School District $39,267
Fertile-Beltrami School District $41,922
Lake of the Woods School District $49,840
Lake Superior School District $50,000
McGregor School District $46,500
Pine City School District $44,831
Princeton School District $44,916
Rothsay School District $46,500
Shakopee School District $34,574
St. Cloud School District $40,546
Thief River Falls School District $30,484
Tracy School District $30,620
Total: $500,000

 

See a map of school districts awarded broadband grants by clicking here.

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