Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction will receive a special grant of $5.25 million from the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands’ Common School Fund, chaired by State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, to cover technology needed for remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Department of Public Instruction is grateful to the State Treasurer’s office and the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands for this special allocation,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Carolyn Stanford Taylor said in a statement on Wednesday.
The coronavirus pandemic, Stanford Taylor said, has “served to magnify the inequity of technology across our state.”
“This money provides immediate assistance and will increase our effort in bridging the digital divide and meeting the remote learning needs of our students,” Stanford Taylor added. “It will also allow school librarians to provide digital resources and devices to access the internet, so students and their families have the tools necessary to continue learning while schools remain closed.”
As chair of the Common School Fund, Godlewski said, “I’m really active in the investment strategy to ensure that we continue to provide schools with the money they need.”
The pandemic, she adds, “really requires us to think outside the box.”
Godlewski told members of the Wisconsin Public Education Network about the grant on Tuesday evening, just before Wednesday’s official announcement. She had been talking to teachers who are struggling to teach remotely, she said, because they lack the tools they need to do the job. “I had a conversation with a teacher not too long ago who was getting emotional because she said, ‘Sarah, it’s really stressful — we’re doing what we can, but we know that we don’t always have the tools to meet some of these challenges when it comes to distance learning.’”
Schools will begin receiving money from the special allocation on May 1 to help with WiFi hotspots, ebooks, and other materials.
“We can’t wait for the Legislature,” Godlweski told the group of public school advocates. “ I was looking at what can we do within our executive authority. … That money is going to be literally given to public schools tomorrow.”