A coalition of leading businesses and philanthropic organizations in Detroit has announced a $23 million initiative to ensure the city's public school students have digital access to remote learning.
With funding from the DTE Energy, W.K. Kellogg, and Skillman foundations, as well as Quicken Loans and General Motors, the Connected Futures program will provide every Detroit Public School Community District K-12 student with a computer tablet, high-speed LTE Internet connectivity, and technical support before the end of the school year. The effort represents a first step in addressing the digital divide in the city — a gap that has widened as students have been forced to learn from home as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The district estimates that 90 percent of its fifty-one thousand students do not have an Internet-enabled device.
"This has been part of our long-term plan for DPSCD for three years as we have invested in technology at schools, but these investments did not impact the lack of connectivity at home," said DPSCD superintendent Nikolai Vitti. "The ability for our students to access the educational platforms that they use during the school day from home will elevate their learning year-round, not just during this crisis."
The first six months of Internet connectivity will be fully subsidized, during which time students will be transitioned to a low-cost hard-wired connection. DPSCD, the City of Detroit, DTE, Quicken Loans, and the Skillman Foundation have created a committee that will oversee the initiative over the long term, monitor critical data points, address any issues that arise, and jointly solve problems.
"This is the first tranche that we're tackling," said Skillman Foundation president and CEO Tonya Allen. "DPSCD has the largest number of Detroit students, and we wanted to be sure that we reached as many children as quickly as possible. But we're not done. We're already planning an expansion of this program to reach more than thirty-six thousand children who attend other K-12 schools in the city. Digital access has evolved from a nicety to a necessity — and we cannot afford to let our children down. We invite businesses and other philanthropic organizations — big and small — to join us in this ongoing effort to lift up the children of Detroit."