Representative Davnie introduced a bill that includes funding for a distance learning broadband access grant program. It was read today and moved onto the Education Finance Division. I applaud any effort to get students the broadband they need to participate in distance education. Speaking for my household, distance education is hard enough when you to have adequate broadband! Also ensuring that all students have access will open the door to schools providing more interactive classes.
The difficult part of the equation is the word temporary. Yes, students need this now but they will also need to tomorrow and next year and 10 years from now. I hope there is a plan or emphasis on creating connections that are permanent as well.
Section 1. DISTANCE LEARNING BROADBAND ACCESS GRANT PROGRAM.
For the purposes of this section, “commissioner” means the
commissioner of education.
A distance learning broadband access grant program is
established in the Department of Education to provide temporary wireless or wire-line
broadband access to students currently lacking Internet access so that the students may
participate in distance learning offered by school districts and charter schools during the
peacetime public health emergency period that relates to the infectious disease known as
A grant awarded under this section may be used to:
(1) provide a student with a data card, USB modem, or other mobile or temporary
broadband device that enables the student to access learning materials available on the
Internet through a mobile or temporary wireless or wire-line broadband connection;
(2) reimburse a school district or charter school for actual costs incurred to provide
emergency distance learning wireless or wire-line broadband access during the 2019-2020
school year; and
(3) reimburse a school district or charter school for the cost of wireless or wire-line
broadband Internet access for households with students that did not otherwise have Internet
access before March 13, 2020, for the 2019-2020 school year.
A Minnesota school district or charter school may apply
for a grant award under this section.
(a) An applicant for a grant under this section must file
an application with the commissioner on a form developed by the commissioner. The
commissioner may consult with the commissioner of employment and economic development
when developing the form.
(b) An application for a grant under this subdivision must describe a school district’s or
charter school’s approach to identify and prioritize access for students unable to access the
Internet for distance learning and may include a description of local or private matching
grants or in-kind contributions.
(c) A school district or charter school may develop its application in cooperation with
the school district’s or charter school’s community education department, the school district’s
or charter school’s adult basic education program provider, a public library, an Internet
service provider, or other community partner.
(d) The commissioner must award grants under this section on a first-come, first-served
(e) The commissioner must develop administrative procedures governing the application
and grant award process.
The commissioner must establish a maximum per-pupil amount
for grants awarded under this section based on (1) the number of districts and charter schools
that apply for a grant, and (2) the availability of federal money for a similar purpose.
This section is effective the day following final enactment.
Sec. 2. PERMANENT SCHOOL FUND; SEPTEMBER 2020 APPORTIONMENT.
Notwithstanding any law to the contrary, a school district or charter school must use the
September, 2020, permanent school fund apportionment under Minnesota Statutes, section
127A.33, to provide mental health services and support for students or to purchase
educational technology for students, including hardware, software, or connectivity.
Sec. 3. APPROPRIATION.
$8,000,000 in fiscal year 2020 is appropriated from the general fund to the commissioner
of employment and economic development for transfer to the commissioner of education
for emergency distance learning wireless or wire-line broadband access for student grants
for school districts and charter schools under section 1. Up to five percent of the appropriation
under this paragraph may be used to reimburse reasonable costs incurred by the Department
of Education to administer section 1. This is a onetime appropriation. Any funds that remain
unexpended on September 30, 2020, are transferred to the border-to-border broadband fund
account established in Minnesota Statutes, section 116J.396. By December 1, 2020, the
commissioner of education must report to the legislature regarding the number of districts
and charter schools that received grants under section 1 and the number of students that
were provided Internet access. The report must also identify the costs to administer the grant
program and the amount transferred to the border-to-border broadband fund.