Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Plan to connect rural schools to high-speed internet streams forward

For many educators, it’s hard to imagine not being able to access the internet quickly from one of many electronic devices, and immediately play a video or load a news article instantaneously. The reality is that technology will continue to be a necessary learning component in classrooms. To effectively use that technology and provide quality educational outcomes for students, however, proper infrastructure is required.

A measure recently introduced by a bipartisan group of Illinois senators seeks to fund that infrastructure for the approximately 100 school districts without high-speed internet access. Senators Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill), Sam McCann (R-Plainview), and Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant (D-Shorewood) have proposed legislation to set aside $16.3 million from the School Infrastructure Fund to pay for the cost of installing fiber optic cable to deliver high-speed internet to rural schools. The state money would be matched nearly three to one with federal dollars to cover installation costs that range from $75,000 to $420,000 per district.

Without access to quality, high-speed internet connections, common activities of modern classrooms are unavailable, such as streaming education videos or online testing and remote learning. These mainstays of urban schools are unknown to nearly 90,000 students in underserved areas, the bill sponsors say, and installation of fiber optic lines would fill this void and remain cost effective into the future.

They say their high-speed internet proposal directly aligns with the Illinois Vision 20/20 priority of providing 21st Century Learning. The Vision 20/20 policy goal is to provide high speed internet connectivity to every school and community that meets the State Educational Technology Directors Association’s internet connection recommendations to ensure adequacy and equity for every student.