MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan on Tuesday announced a public-private partnership with notable Minnesota philanthropic and business leaders that’s aimed at getting students access to technology and adequate internet.

The ConnectedMN partnership includes Best Buy, Comcast, Blandin Foundation, Saint Paul and Minnesota Foundation and the Minnesota Business Partnership, in collaboration with the state.

Walz and Flanagan say ConnectedMN’s goal is to bring technology and high-speed internet access to students across the state in communities of need.

“As the parent of a seven-year old, we endured our share of triumphs and challenges with distance learning this past spring,” Flanagan said. “Those challenges are exacerbated for low-income families, Indigenous families and families of color, and families in Greater Minnesota who may not have access to technology that meets their work and learning needs. Whatever school looks like this fall, this partnership will help us fill in the gaps.”

The gaps are significant. The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) estimates that 25,000 students in Minnesota lack the technology and high-speed internet access that’s not only essential for academic learning, but also for out-of-school activities and critical services like telehealth.

“Access denied is opportunity denied,” said Bernadine Joselyn, director of public policy and engagement for Grand Rapids-based Blandin Foundation. “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.”

Business and philanthropic leaders have so far raised $1.65 million.

Meanwhile, the Governor’ Emergency Education Relief (GEER) has earmarked $14 million for districts to prioritize devices and connectivity. The MDE also prioritized distributing GEER and other emergency school relief funds to districts “with the highest numbers of students receiving special education, students of color, homeless students, English language learners, and students who qualify for free-and reduced-price meals.”

More information on ConnectedMN can be found here.

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