State of California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced that the California Department of Education (CDE) will provide more than 500,000 additional computing devices to California students in need.

CDE has partnered with technology companies to provide needed devices amid a worldwide tech device shortage that emerged earlier this year. The department noted that at the start of the 2020-2021 school year, it became clear that there were worldwide disruptions to the technology supply chain. Meaning, companies were struggling to meet the needs of school districts nationwide, and hundreds of thousands of devices were on backorder in August.

“We cannot stop until we know we have leveled the playing field for every student in California by connecting them to the technology they need to succeed now, and in the years ahead,” Thurmond said. “At a time when there is a worldwide shortage of devices … I am proud that we have been able to work [with technology companies] to give school districts a unique chance to equip every student in need with a computing device.”

As California schools continue to rely on distanced or hybrid learning, Thurmond’s office said the new devices will be available within weeks. Thurmond said California has worked with technology companies including ASUS, CDW, Dell, HP, Lenovo, Samsung, Staples, and Office Depot. These new devices are in addition to the hundreds of thousands of internet-enabled iPads prioritized for California students under a collaboration announced last month between the CDE, Apple, and T-Mobile to connect up to one million students in need.

Funding for these devices, as well as other technology upgrades, comes from $5.3 billion in state funding. The funding, which is a one-time budget item, is intended to help schools strengthen distance learning. At the same time, CDE anticipates the benefits of the funding to last well beyond the pandemic. The Department said the funds are “a rare opportunity for districts to make short and long-term investments in student technology.”

For many schools nationwide the move to distance or hybrid learning is an attempt to stem the spread of COVID-19. While the pandemic is top of mind for CDE, the agency also is motivated by ongoing wildfires in the state. As of Sept. 30, at least 36 schools and 12,000 students were known to be in wildfire evacuation zones. CDE is in the process of securing and distributing hundreds of computing devices, hotspots, and accessories for students attending impacted schools.

In anticipation of the move to distance learning, CDE released a new tool – Guidance on Best Practices for Distance Learning Instructional Planning – in August. The guidance is intended to support school faculty and educators that are implementing distance learning instruction

“Distance learning will be with us in some form moving forward, even as schools may be allowed to begin reopening in various capacities. We are committed to offering real-time, actionable support to our educators as we all lean into this new reality,” Thurmond said. “Through continued investments in educator training – and increased, proactive family engagement – I am confident that our schools will reach and engage more students as we move through this challenging period together.”

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs