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Newsom Announces Support Provided to School Districts as Fall Semester Begins

-Editorial

Governor Gavin Newsom today announced that every eligible local educational agency in California has applied for and is receiving a portion of the $5.3 billion in learning loss mitigation funds secured through the state budget he signed in June. The Governor also signed an executive order directing state agencies across the government to bridge the digital divide, building on the state’s efforts to provide computing devices and hotspots to students across the state.

“Schools may be physically closed, but in California at least, the class is still in session,” said Governor Newsom. “While more work remains, districts across the state are in a far better position this semester to provide meaningful distance instruction to every child.”

“In these challenging circumstances, our state has profound respect and gratitude for the parents and teachers who are doing all they can to make sure our students’ educational and social-emotional needs are met,” added Governor Newsom.

In July, Governor Newsom outlined California’s pandemic plan for schools, which prioritized the safety of students and staff and providing quality instruction, whether in-person or through distance learning. Based on current epidemiological data in communities, over 90 percent of students will begin the year with distance learning.

New statewide requirements have been enacted to ensure quality instruction through distance learning, including:

* Access to devices and connectivity for all kids

* Daily live interaction with teachers and other students

* Challenging assignments equivalent to in-person classes

* Adapted lessons for English-language learners and special education students

In June, to support the implementation of these new requirements, Governor Newsom worked with the Legislature to secure $5.3 billion to support schools to provide quality instruction during the pandemic. Since then, every eligible local educational agency in California applied for those funds before the first deadline, using the support to prepare for the beginning of the year. Californians can see what funding their district received on the California Department of Education website.

Because this pandemic has an inequitable impact on communities – including a digital divide in access to the technology necessary for distance learning – over 81 percent of the funds prioritized students with the greatest need, including low-income students, students with disabilities, foster youth, homeless students and English learners. Over the past several weeks, the Governor’s Office and the California Department of Education have encouraged schools to apply early for their share of the funds and use those funds to prioritize quality distance learning and to bridge the digital divide.

The digital divide remains a barrier to students accessing quality education. Before the pandemic, approximately one in five students in California lacked high-speed internet or an appropriate computing device at home. Since then, there have been signs of progress. For example, in a recent EMC Research survey, 91 percent of parents reported that they had the technology they need at home to implement distance learning.

Despite signs of progress, more work needs to be done, especially for rural communities with limited broadband infrastructure. In light of these inequities, Governor Newsom signed an executive order to bridge the digital divide by mobilizing across state government.

The order directs agencies to pursue a goal of 100 Mbps download speed. It also outlines actions across state agencies to accelerate mapping and data collection, funding, deployment, and adoption of high-speed Internet.

The new executive order builds on the state’s work to date, delivering over 73,000 computing devices and 100,000 hotspots to hundreds of school districts statewide, with a priority on rural communities. California has also worked with companies including Apple, T-Mobile, Office Depot, Staples, and others to set aside hundreds of thousands of discounted devices to prioritize for California schools.

Previously, the Governor announced new cross-sector partnerships to support the state’s distance learning efforts and help bridge the digital divide. He called on businesses and philanthropy to help close the gap and provide computing devices and hotspots to students across the state. At the start of the pandemic, Governor Newsom issued an executive order ensuring California public school districts retain state funding even in the event of physical closure. He also issued an executive order empowering schools to focus on responding to COVID-19 and to provide transparency to their communities.

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