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Local superintendents weigh in on Gov. Ivey’s call to expand broadband

Alabama lawmakers are meeting to hammer out how to spend $772 million in pandemic relief...
Alabama lawmakers are meeting to hammer out how to spend $772 million in pandemic relief money. Local school leaders are weighing in about how some of that money can be used to help students.(WBRC)
Published: Jan. 19, 2022 at 6:40 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Alabama lawmakers are meeting to hammer out how to spend $772 million in pandemic relief money.

Local school leaders are weighing in about how some of that money can be used to help students.

Gov. Kay Ivey is calling for some of the American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA, money to be used toward the expansion of broadband across the state, and two local superintendents said it would help tremendously in rural parts of their school districts.

Alabama has $580 million in COVID relief money, plus nearly an additional $192 million from a capital improvement fund set up under ARPA.

Alabama’s draft plan says $277 million would be set aside for broadband expansion or services supporting it.

Many students in rural counties throughout Alabama rely on school internet, hot spots, and cellular service for internet access, but that does them no good when schools have to go to remote learning.

There are about 7,500 students in the Blount County School District, and Superintendent, Rodney Green, said about 42% of students don’t have internet at home.

Etowah County Superintendent, Dr. Alan Cosby, said internet access is especially lacking in rural counties.

“Student that are not living in an area where we have adequate broadband, they can’t take advantage of those resources and it really handicaps them when we do that. So, we’d like to see broadband expanded, certainly in our rural areas,” said Dr. Cosby.

“If students don’t have equal resources, or availability to the same type of resources, you have an inequity that you cannot avoid, and so, broadband internet initiative would bring that equity and fairness to more and more students,” said Mr. Green.

Legislative committees are expected to vote on the bills on Thursday and consider them in the House and Senate next week.

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