SPRINGFIELD – High-quality broadband access in schools creates rich digital learning environments in which students can develop 21st-century skills, take advantage of open education resources, and become college and career ready. Yet according to a new report, 31 percent of school districts in Illinois do not meet the Federal Communications Commission’s bandwidth goals for connectivity.
connectivity report comes as Gov. Bruce Rauner announces that Illinois has been selected to participate in the K-12 Broadband and Digital Learning Policy Academy. The academy is led by a partnership between the National Governors Association (NGA) and national nonprofit EducationSuperHighway and is designed to help states bring Internet access to all schools to reach every student and enhance digital learning.
“The greatest investment we can make as a state is in our children, and that includes giving them the tools and support they need to succeed,” Governor Rauner said. “The state’s participation in the Policy Academy will give Illinois access to expert guidance and the latest strategies, which will expand access to digital technologies for our students and teachers.”
Up to 12 percent of schools do not have scalable high-speed broadband connections.
Of these schools, the majority would qualify for federal funding through the federal E-rate program, which could help them finance their local share and build fiber broadband connections through 2019. Facing a lengthy and involved process to access that funding, however, many schools may need additional technical assistance to maximize the benefits.
Through the Policy Academy, state leaders are already addressing the issue. The connectivity report, produced by EducationSuperHighway, provides baseline data so that Illinois can target districts that need additional bandwidth and those that could improve local infrastructure. State leaders attended the first of the academy’s convening’s recently focusing on topics from statewide digital strategies to connecting school districts to E-rate funding. Ultimately, participation in the Policy Academy and the partnership with NGA and EducationSuperHighway will enable Illinois to share tools, technical assistance, and consulting services with Illinois school districts at no cost. This opportunity will help districts obtain and expand the bandwidth students need in the 21st-century classroom and will support robust Wi-Fi in schools.
“We know digital learning works and is vital to helping students achieve a high-quality education to prepare them for rewarding careers,” said Illinois Secretary of Education Beth Purvis. “Under the guidance of caring teachers and parents, expanded access to the Internet opens up new technology and learning in our classrooms to improve student success. We are proud to join the NGA and EducationSuperHighway in making this a reality.”
In 2015, Gov. Rauner committed to connecting more K-12 classrooms to high-speed Internet in order to support digital learning and equal opportunities for all Illinois students. This Policy Academy brings together staff from the Office of the Governor, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), the Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT), and the Learning Technology Centers, with support from NGA and EducationSuperHighway, to meet the Governor’s commitment.
“We welcome this announcement and look forward to learning from national best practices as we build a comprehensive action plan for digital learning in Illinois,” said State Superintendent of Education Tony Smith, Ph.D. “Ensuring our children have affordable access to the Internet and the most up-to-date digital learning programs is critical for their education and future success.”
Resources available to interested school districts can be found at the following websites: