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Digital Learning & Technology

Digital Connections Partnership Schools Grant & Loan Program - Application Posted

Application materials for the Digital Connections Partnership Schools Grant & Loan Program are posted with a due date of Friday, October 7, 2016. The Digital Connections Initiative provides tools, assistance, and funding to bridge the digital divide that exists in some schools across the Commonwealth and strengthen twenty-first century teaching and learning. The initiative is a partnership between the Office of Digital Learning (ODL) within the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE), the Massachusetts Department of Information Technology (MassIT), and the nonprofit EducationSuperHighway (ESH). The initiative consists of:
  1. The School Technology Readiness Survey, an online tool for collecting information about the current state of technology in a school. All districts seeking state assistance for technology upgrades, including districts that may be seeking a waiver of the requirement to administer computer-based tests in grades 4 and 8 in 2017, must complete the survey for every school in the district (completion of the survey does not automatically result in a waiver).
  2. The EducationSuperHighway Broadband Upgrade Program, a partnership between ESH and Massachusetts to support districts with their broadband upgrades. ESH provides a team of expert consultants to work with each interested district to: Conduct outreach to a broad network of competitive providers; support your RFP process; build a business case for your town approval; provide tips for negotiating with providers; and act as project managers during the implementation process.All services are free of charge. To schedule a half hour kick-off call, make an appointment.
  3. The Digital Connections Partnership Schools (DCPS) Grant
    • $2 million in state bond funds are available to cover non-discount project costs under the federal E-rate program (state match). The state will cover non-discounted project costs until the funds run out. All local matching funds must be provided to MassIT before the project starts, and all project costs that utilize state bond funds must be completed by June 30, 2017. The local match may come from other public or private sources.
  4. The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) Loan Program
    • Thanks to the State Treasurer's Office, the MSBA is providing $10 million in interest-free loans to cover discounted costs for the local match (up to $2.5 million per district). Districts that do not qualify for a state match are still eligible for loans, and districts could apply for a loan only, provided that they complete the School Technology Readiness Survey and submit a DCPS application. (Note: The DCPS application is not an application for loans, nor are the loans administered by ESE or MassIT. Rather, MSBA will use the information provided by districts through the DCPS application to inform their process.)
  5. E-rate discounts. E-rate is a federal program that provides technology discounts for schools and libraries. E-rate is administered by the Universal Services Administrative Company (USAC) under the oversight of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). All public schools are eligible to receive discounts on eligible Category 1 services (Internet/broadband and for a limited time, voice) and Category 2 services (internal connections, managed internal broadband services, and basic maintenance of internal connections), but only if the services are purchased from eligible contracts and the application is approved by USAC. Discounts on Category 2 Wi-Fi range from 20 to 85 percent based upon poverty level and whether the district is rural or urban. Rural districts and districts with higher poverty receive greater discounts. Almost all Massachusetts public schools receive at least a 40 percent discount. (NOTE: Funding under the current program is only available for a limited time and all districts are strongly encouraged to file an E-rate application for reimbursements no later than FY19.)
Note: The DCPS application is not an application for loans, nor are the loans administered by ESE or MassIT. Rather, MSBA will use the information provided by districts through the DCPS application to inform their process.) The local match may come from other public or private sources. All local matching funds must be provided to MassIT before the project starts, and all project costs that utilize state bond funds must be completed by June 30, 2017.



Last Updated: September 5, 2016



 
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