April 28, 2020

$1.5M From Mayor's E-Fund To Help 39K Students Get Online For School

Students work on an internet connected device.  - Flickr

Students work on an internet connected device.


A fund created by the Indianapolis Mayor’s office will distribute $1.5 million to public schools in Marion County to help low-income students get computers and internet service for their remote e-learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. The city’s E-Learning Fund committee members approved release of the funds Monday.

Preliminary survey results found more than 39,000 public school students in the county, or around 25 percent, do not have access to broadband for online learning. Additionally, tens of thousands of students are without laptops, tablets, or wifi hotspots, according to Mayor Joe Hogsett’s Office of Education Innovation, which oversaw the survey. These early survey results are based on completed surveys from educators.

Warren Township Schools, one of the county’s 11 public school districts, reported 59 percent of its students are without home internet. Indianapolis Public Schools, the largest district, found more than 10,200 students, or 40 percent, are without access.

Among all Marion County public schools, the current need reported for students is more than 26,800 laptops, 4,700 tablets and 12,100 internet hotspots.

“We are focused on using these funds to strengthen our service to students and families,” Shawn A. Smith, Superintendent of MSD Lawrence Township and a member of the fund's advisory committee, said in a statement. “We realize this is a short-term solution, but we are leveraging our power to create a long-term solution that will benefit all public-school families in Marion County.”

Districts and schools will receive money from the Indianapolis E-Learning Fund based on their enrollment and number of students that are reported to qualify for free and reduced-price lunch. Funds are given directly to the school districts. The Mind Trust, the nonprofit school reform advocacy group, is distributing money to charter schools.

Indianapolis Public Schools received the most funds at $246,310. Perry Township Schools got the second highest amount at $175,973. The smallest allocation is for School Town of Speedway at $16,930. Charter schools received a total of $256,286 in funds.
The money will be used to purchase devices, internet access and other short-term needs to help students access online learning, while school buildings are closed this academic year.
The Indianapolis E-Learning Fund was launched earlier this month with an initial size of $2.6 million, seeded by nearly 20 philantopic, business and education groups. After this week’s allocation to school districts and schools, the remaining money is earmarked for “longer-term investments and resources for schools engaging in e-learning and remote learning statewide,” according to a press release.
A seven-member committee advises how to distribute the funds. Its members include Smith, Superintendents Aleesia Johnson of Indianapolis Public Schools, Pat Mapes of Perry Township Schools, The Mind Trust CEO Brandon Brown and Jeffrey A. Johnson Sr. Eastern Star Church’s senior pastor.

Contact WFYI education reporter Eric Weddle at eweddle@wfyi.org or call (317) 614-0470. Follow on Twitter: @ericweddle.


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