Jul 17, 2020

Governor Murphy Releases Plan to Address Digital Divide in Schools

By Marc H. Zitomer, Esq. and Christopher J. Sedefian, Esq.

Yesterday, Governor Murphy released the State’s plan to address pre-K-to-12 student technological needs in schools, commonly referred to as “the digital divide.” The three-pronged approach consists of the following:

  1. The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) posted a Request for Information (RFI) yesterday to its website at https://www.njeda.com/Bidding-Opportunities-General/Economic-Transformation-RFIs. The RFI seeks information and ideas to bridge the digital divide for pre-K-12 students, including philanthropic support from companies and organizations. Interested parties have until July 31, 2020 to respond to the RFI. The Department of Education (DOE) will use District information to assist school districts in need in connecting with identified philanthropic partners and potential solutions.
  2. The DOE will use a portion of the State’s federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds to offer a one-time $10 million formula grant. The funding will be distributed to public school districts to purchase digital devices and internet connectivity for one-to-one student use based on need and the availability of philanthropic donations. Districts will be required to submit an application that the DOE plans on releasing next week. Districts will also have to demonstrate a plan for appropriate use of the funds.
  3. Subsequent to the exhaustion of philanthropy and ESSER Fund grants, the State will redirect Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) funds to close any remaining gap and fill the unmet needs of students. Up to $44 million in CRF funds will be available for this purpose, as well as an additional $6 million for nonpublic schools.

We advise school districts to review their current student technological needs. Districts that have students who are in need of digital devices and/or internet connectivity are encouraged to apply for funding from the DOE. For more information on this Legal Alert or related issues, please contact the education law attorneys at Schenck Price.

DISCLAIMER: This Alert is designed to keep you aware of recent developments in the law. It is not intended to be legal advice, which can only be given after the attorney understands the facts of a particular matter and the goals of the client.