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Minnesota partners with businesses for tech and internet initiative for students

ConnectedMN says it has raised $1.65 million so far
Computer laptop

A new public-private partnership aims to provide internet access and technology for students this coming school year.

Comprised of several private companies and foundations, the ConnectedMN initiative has raised $1.65 million for technology and broadband access, the Office of Governor Tim Walz announced Tuesday.

The state, which doesn't have a role in fundraising or directing funds, is partnering with Best Buy, Comcast, Blandin Foundation, Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation and the Minnesota Business Partnership for the project, according to a news release. 

Lack of access to technology or internet has surfaced as a major obstacle in distance learning, highlighting disparities among and within school districts.

The Minnesota Department of Education estimates 25,000 students lack access to necessary technology, and disproportionately consist of low income students, Indigenous students and students of color.

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MDE’s latest recommendations say schools should prepare for three scenarios for this coming fall: continued distance learning, in-person instruction or a hybrid version with both methods.

“Access denied is opportunity denied,” said Bernadine Joselyn, director of public policy and engagement for the Blandin Foundation, in a statement. “It will require partnership to make sure that every student, in every corner of every county, has access to the knowledge, learning and services for their success.”

More details on how to apply for the program will be available later this month, the Governor’s Office said in a statement. 

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