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Council passes initiative to provide high-speed Internet access and technology skills training to low-income students

Councilmember Bruce Harrell

Council passes initiative to provide high-speed Internet access and technology skills training to low-income students
The Great Student Initiative will help educate and prepare Seattle students

Seattle – The City Council voted unanimously on Monday to approve the Great Student Initiative (Resolution 31328).  Legislated by Councilmember Bruce Harrell, the Great Student Initiative will serve as a model for the nation in bringing together and maximizing public-private partnerships to help students and families acquire broadband Internet access and technology skills training. 

The program can help approximately 16,000 of the 47,000 students in Seattle Public Schools on the free lunch program.  Only 46 percent of households in Seattle with incomes averaging under $30,000 receive high-speed Internet access.  The public-private partnership will map out resources for a sustainable program to achieve Council’s policy directives in making sure students from all socio-economic backgrounds have access to high-speed Internet and vital job skills training.   

"I am excited to launch Seattle’s Great Student Initiative and lead a national effort to educate our students on important digital literacy skills," said Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell. "The information and communication technology job sector contributes over $3.5 billion to Seattle’s economy and information technology job growth is projected at 22 percent in this decade, one of the fastest and more sustainable job industries. We must equip children from all backgrounds with tools to access online educational resources to compete in this global economy driven by technology, science, engineering, and mathematics.  According to the International Data Corporation (IDC), 77 percent of jobs in the next decade will require technology skills."

Data from the Federal Reserve show students without home Internet access have a high school graduation rate six to eight percentage points lower than students who have access in their homes. This is a major opportunity to ensure that more students graduate.

"Seattle Public Schools is pleased to partner with the city to begin to eliminate the digital divide," said Susan Enfield, Interim Superintendent. "We thank these companies for stepping up and helping low income families throughout Seattle."

Through the Comcast Internet Essentials program, students on the national free lunch program will have access to $9.95 a month Internet service and a $150 netbook computer.

"Educational enrichment cannot be confined to the walls of the classroom. Connecting students to online resources at home will remove obstacles to opportunity, allowing students to compete on an even playing field and live up to their full potential," said Kelley Dunne, President and CEO, One Economy Corporation. "The Great Student Initiative is a collaborative digital inclusion program that fully engages city leaders, corporations, teachers, parents and the community in improving education for Seattle students." 

"Getting technology and Internet access into the hands of our students is essential in building a pathway toward graduation.  This will not only lead to a healthy workforce, but help in creating jobs," said Council President Richard Conlin.

"While the world has gone digital, many low-income families have not, making passage of the Great Student Initiative especially important. Through our Internet Essentials program and continued financial commitments to digital literacy programs we look forward to doing our part to help close the digital divide," said Len Rozek, Senior Vice President, Comcast.

"All students should have access to the building blocks of a quality education so that they can go from learning to earning," said Sig Behrens, General Manager of U.S. Education for Microsoft. "The link between education attainment and economic growth has never been clearer. Seattle is on the leading edge of Microsoft’s Shape the Future vision, which prioritizes ensuring that low-income students have access to the same digital tools that can help to put them on par with their more connected peers.  This should be made an educational priority for all, not a privilege for some."

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