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State to hand out around 70,000 laptops, tablets to students as part of business partnerships

Gavin Newsom

FILE – In this file photo taken Tuesday April 14, 2020, California Gov. Gavin Newsom discusses an outline for what it will take to lift coronavirus restrictions during a news conference at the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services in Rancho Cordova, Calif. President Donald Trump declared that states could “call your own shots” in determining how and when to loosen restrictions on businesses and social gatherings. Clusters of states representing the vast majority of Americans have decided cooperation in dealing with the coronavirus is the better option. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli,File)

SACRAMENTO (KGET) – Governor Gavin Newsom today announced new cross-sector partnerships to support the state’s distance learning efforts and help bridge the digital divide.

Through partnerships with Amazon, Apple, T-Mobile and other companies, Newsom said the state will provide laptops, Chromebooks and tablets to 70,000 students as well as internet access for hundreds of thousands of households.

“School may be physically closed, but class is still in session,” Newsom said. “But for class to be in session, it is imperative that California addresses the inequities in access to computers, technology tools and connectivity to ensure that online learning can in fact reach all of California’s children. It’s inspiring to see parents, teachers, businesses and philanthropy step up to meet this moment and provide tools to help bridge the digital divide and get more students connected.”

Approximately one in five students in California lack high-speed Internet or an appropriate computing device at home, according to the state.

In a parent survey two weeks ago, 50 percent of low-income families and 42 percent of families of color reported that they lacked the laptop, Chromebook, or tablet needed to access distance learning.

“We are so thankful to everyone that is stepping up to help us close the digital divide. These efforts will truly make an impact in the lives of our students and an even greater impact as we work to close achievement gaps that existed before this public health crisis,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond.

Here is a list of some of the main partnerships that Newsom announced:

  • T-Mobile is donating 13,000 tablet devices, in addition to the previously-announced 100,000 hotspot devices (for which they partnered with Google.)
  • Amazon is donating 10,000 tablet devices.
  • HP Inc. is donating 5,000 Chromebooks and launching HP Refresh with dedicated resources to the state. 
  • Lenovo is donating 4,000 Chromebooks.
  • Apple is actively working with 800 districts across the state, offering free coaching sessions to teachers to help them with the transition to remote learning. In addition, Apple is offering special pricing for iPads with cellular, and has given the equivalent of 9,000 iPads to ensure the most vulnerable in our state have access.
  • Microsoft is donating 1,000 Surface tablets.
  • Zoom is donating $500,000.
  • AT&T is donating $300,000 for devices and $250,000 for distance learning programs.
  • Verizon is partnering with the State of California to provide 250,000 students with unlimited Internet service at a discount.
  • The Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative is donating $1,000,000.
  • Jack Dorsey (via #startsmall) is donating $1,000,000.
  • Ann & John Doerr are donating $1,000,000.

All monetary contributions will be deposited in a fund established at the CDE Foundation and used to bulk-purchase computing and hotspot devices for allocation to school districts in need, with a priority on rural and low-income communities, the state said.

CPUC Broadband in Schools Initiative

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and the California Department of Education (CDE) will partner to distribute a total of $30 million to support connectivity, Newsom said.

The CPUC will make $25 million available from the California Teleconnect Fund for hotspots and Internet service for student households. School districts will be able to apply to receive 50 percent discounts on the cost of hotspot devices and on monthly recurring service charges until September 30. Rural, small, and medium-sized districts will be prioritized. More information is available here.

The CPUC is also proposing to make $5 million available from the California Advanced Services Fund to help cover the costs of computing and hotspot devices. CDE will review requests and coordinate purchases in order to leverage economies of scale.

Low-income communities, communities with high percentages of residents with limited English proficiency and communities with high percentages of residents with limited education attainment will be prioritized, according to the state.

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