Beginning today at noon EDT, schools and libraries can submit applications for the newly established $7.17 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) that aims to address disparities in off-campus internet access that were exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic. The window is open for 45 calendar days, closing on Friday, August 13. Eligible applicants can submit funding requests to purchase equipment and services for the 2021-22 school year through this historic, one-time program.
Funded by the American Rescue Plan, applicants can use the money to purchase laptop and tablet computers, Wi-Fi hotspots, and broadband connectivity for students, school staff, and library patrons who would otherwise lack sufficient access to a device or connected services when not on a school or library campus. Read the complete ECF Order here.
“The ECF program is a once in a lifetime opportunity designed to help districts provide equitable access to learning opportunities for students,” said Christina Iremonger,
Chief Digital Officer for Vancouver Public Schools. “For Vancouver Public Schools, this means funding that will support quality mobile devices that have the capacity to support robust learning applications and platforms not accessible on our current devices. Access to such platforms and applications is a major step toward equity of learning experience and closing the homework gap.”
In Funds For Learning’s most recent survey of E-rate applicants, 90 percent of schools and libraries said the “homework gap” is still a significant issue in their communities. The homework gap stems from the difficulty students experience completing homework when they lack internet access at home, compared to those who have access. It’s a challenge that nearly every school system has struggled with before and during the pandemic.
“We know there is a huge need for closing the homework gap, and the ECF is a terrific first step, but this is not a one-and-done solution,” said John Harrington, CEO of Funds for Learning. “I hope that every school and library apply for funding to document the scope of the challenge we face, so it’s clear to Congress and the FCC that there is an ongoing need for support.”