Deal Announces Additional $6.9 Million in Connections for Classrooms Grant Awards

May 9, 2016

Governor Nathan Deal today announced 53 local education authorities (LEAs) will be awarded more than $6.9 million from the Connections for Classrooms grant program, a collaborative funding effort between the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement, the Georgia Department of Education and the OneGeorgia Authority to help ensure classrooms across the state have the high-speed broadband access required for digital and blended learning. These grants, enabled by additional funds appropriated in the amended FY16 budget, fully fund all applicants from Round 3 of the grant program once combined with the $8.2 million awarded in January.

“In order to learn necessary skills to succeed in the 21st-century job market, Georgia’s students must master 21st century skills,” said Deal. “Digital literacy skills are becoming increasingly necessary to remain competitive in a global marketplace. In 2012, I charged my Digital Learning Task Force with developing a cohesive strategy to improve student achievement through digital learning implementation across the state. With these additional funds in place, our schools are closer than ever to attaining the necessary technology infrastructure to better prepare Georgia’s students for life outside the classroom.”

The combined $15.1 million in Round 3 funds will enable the LEAs, which include 60 districts, one state school, and one state charter school, to receive $36.8 million in federal E-Rate funds, making the total investment of $51.9 million in school network infrastructure. These grants are critical to ensuring districts not only have the capacity for digital learning but also for the efficient online administration of the Georgia Milestones.

Connections for Classrooms is part of a broader statewide effort to expand classroom high-speed broadband access in response to Deal’s Digital Learning Task Force recommendations as well as the state’s efforts to enable personalized learning for Georgia students. Across three grant rounds, the program has provided more than $77 million in grants to 159 LEAs to accomplish this goal and has enabled them to be eligible for up to $130 million in federal E-rate funds for the same purpose.

Round 3 capitalizes on the recent $2 billion expansion of the federal E-Rate program’s Category 2, which provides grants to LEAs for school-level network infrastructure that can provide local match funding. LEAs that had remaining E-rate eligibility for school- and classroom-level network upgrades after first two Connections for Classrooms rounds were eligible to apply. Applicants had to describe their network infrastructure plans and how the increased connectivity would enable them to implement digital and blended learning to improve student outcomes. Independent reviewers with digital learning expertise scored applications based on a scoring rubric that was released when the grant competition opened. 

LEAs must apply for and receive federal E-rate Category 2 funds to receive reimbursement for local matching funds from Connections for Classrooms, and they can only use grant funds for that purpose.

A national report on broadband connectivity in America's K-12 public schools recognized Georgia as a leader in digital literacy and classroom connectivity.

Click here for a full list of Round 3 awards.

Click here to access the Connections for Classrooms Annual Report for more information on the grant program.