State offers $16 million to help schools improve internet access
Illinois school districts interested in improving internet access for students can apply for more than $16 million in available state funding.
The Illinois State Board of Education has released a request for proposals for state funds to expand internet connectivity in schools. The General Assembly appropriated $16.3 million to fully close the broadband gap by the 2020-21 school year.
Applications are available at isbe.net/broadband and due no later than 4 p.m. Jan. 25. The Learning Technology Center of Illinois will provide free assistance to districts to help with their applications.
According to EducationSuperHighway, Illinois' nonprofit partner, an additional 659,147 Illinois students have gained access to the internet at sufficient speeds since 2015. That brings the number of school districts with sufficient connectivity to 96 percent -- up from 71 percent in 2015.
More than 400,000 students still need additional bandwidth for digital learning. The Federal Communications Commission and the State Education Technology Directors Association established the connectivity speed goal of at least 1 Gbps per 1,000 students and staff members.
The state funding will cover the costs of special construction projects for school districts with federal approval to install fiber optic cable lines. Fiber optic technology delivers the most affordable and fastest network speeds and allows districts to scale up cost-effectively, state officials said.
For a list of school districts in need of fiber connections visit compareandconnectk12.org.