– Governor JB Pritzker and the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) announced today that 471 Local Education Agencies (LEAs) will receive $80,092,677 to help close the digital divide among Illinois students. Funding for the Digital Equity Formula Grant comes from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The CARES Act directs federal funding to governors and State Education Agencies to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. View the list of grantees and award amounts at www.isbe.net/Documents/FY21-Digital-Equity-Allocations-WEB.pdf
“With this commitment of $80 million in funding to closing the digital divide, we are building on the same goals we’ve pushed since the beginning of my administration, creating a pipeline of high-quality learning from cradle to career,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “Throughout this crisis, I have been so impressed to see all the creative ways superintendents and teachers adapted to the pandemic, a spirit of ingenuity that stretched up into our higher education institutions, too. This pandemic has heightened every inequality and injustice in our nation and our educators are on the frontlines of seeing our young people through this moment.”
“Closing the digital divide has been a priority for the agency since March, when the pandemic forced schools statewide to suddenly shift to remote learning,” said State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen I. Ayala. “We saw in the spring that many schools did not have the technology or internet access necessary to connect students and teachers in real-time and to facilitate meaningful remote instruction. We have learned and prepared a lot since the spring, and we are excited to provide our highest-need schools the Digital Equity Formula Grant to strengthen their digital infrastructure this fall and for years to come.”
More than 1.2 million students are starting the 2020-21 school year with remote learning in place and approximately 528,000 are learning in a blended or hybrid environment, comprising nearly 92 percent of all students in Illinois. The Digital Equity Formula Grant will help ensure students have the technology they need to access robust and equitable learning opportunities this fall.
The Digital Equity Formula Grant allocates funding to the highest-need LEAs in the state – those school districts, state-authorized charter schools, university lab schools, and alternative and safe school programs administered by Regional Offices of Education with an Evidence-Based Funding Final Percent of Adequacy of 70 percent or lower in fiscal year 2020 or FY 2021.
Many school districts have already purchased devices and expanded connectivity since the pandemic began. LEAs may use the grant to purchase additional devices and connectivity or to cover purchases made since March 13, 2020. LEAs will receive reimbursement after submitting an approvable application and at least quarterly expenditure reports.