PHILADELPHIA – Local and state leaders expressed their support of PHLConnectED, a collaboration led by public, private and civic organizations to connect up to 35,000 low-income K-12 student households with internet service and laptops. The program, which will also provide digital skills training and tech support for families, is the City of Philadelphia’s urgent response to support students and families as schools move to virtual learning in the upcoming academic year.

Governor Tom Wolf: “This initiative to expand reliable internet access to thousands of Philadelphians will open new doors of opportunities. Equitable access is critical for students to build the digital skills they need for success in the classroom today and in their future careers. It also enables families to connect with telehealth, job opportunities, community services and other news and information. I commend the City, educators and private sector for helping so many households to get connected.”

State Rep. Jordan Harris, House Democratic Whip: “This pandemic is uprooting our normal way of life, but it simply can’t disrupt our children’s education. It would be a disservice to allow students who are already at a disadvantage to fall further behind their peers academically, which is why it’s great news that the City is partnering with multiple businesses and private entities to provide the technological resources necessary so all students can continue their academic endeavors.”

State Rep. Jason Dawkins: “Providing internet service and laptops to our most in need k-12 students is vitally important to their continuing education. The PHLConnectED launch by the City of Philadelphia is an important first step in supporting our student’s education this fall. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light something many of us have known for some time, that access to vital internet services and necessary technology are just as important in urban centers like Philadelphia as it is in rural Pennsylvania. I welcome this program’s launch and appreciate all the hard work being done to bring these services about.”

State Rep. Joanna McClinton: “As we do our best to help K-12 students, parents and teachers navigate these difficult times, I’m so proud of the PHLConnecteED collaborative being rolled out by the City and school district. By working to ensure that our most vulnerable students have the tools they need in order to succeed in their academic pursuits this year, we can truly make a difference in their lives. I’m grateful for everyone involved in bringing this project to fruition.”

City Council President Darrell Clarke: “Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Philadelphia was grappling with a crisis of poverty and inequality that left far too many of our vulnerable young residents without access to quality educational resources that they deserve. The events of 2020 have made it clear that internet access is not a luxury, it’s a basic necessity and we should make every effort to provide it to our residents. We’re thankful to the coalition of PHLConnectED partners who have made digital equity a top priority for Philadelphia.”

Councilmember Cherelle Parker: “The City’s PHLConnectED initiative is a necessary and important program that focuses on students in need and works toward equity. The program will impact many students and help us work towards overall equity as a city. Today I commend this plan to address getting students connected to their classrooms in time for the new school year, but we must be mindful that the digital divide is not just an issue for students. We also need a longer-term plan so everyone of all ages in a household can get connected, whether that’s to look for new job opportunities, to have telehealth appointments with their doctor, or just to connect with their friends and family to stave off loneliness.”

Jerry Jordan, President, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers: “One of the biggest challenges our school communities faced this spring was connectivity, and that boils down to equity. In a commonwealth that is fraught with educational inequity, it is incumbent upon all of us to be relentless in our pursuit of justice. The commitment made today to ensure that our students have access to the internet should be commended, and is a welcome step forward. Our students will be depending on access this fall so that, in these trying times, they are able to connect with their educators and their peers while staying healthy at home.”

Dr. Robin Cooper, President, Commonwealth Association of School Administrators’ (CASA): “We must each do everything we can to ensure that this pandemic does not come between children and their right to quality education. Reliable access to the internet is non-negotiable if we are going to ensure that Philadelphia’s most vulnerable students have the educational opportunities that they need and deserve. PHLconnectED’s plan to bring 35,000 households online is a commendable, collaborative response to digital inequity at this critical time.”

Donna Cooper, Executive Director of Public Citizens for Children and Youth: “From day one the Mayor has made the children of this city his priority and today’s announcement is clear evidence that he has not stopped putting kids first. Brokering this partnership to tackle and overcome the myriad of connectivity challenges students faced last spring is remarkable and will make a world of difference for students in this city. There is a great deal more to be done to make virtual instruction meaningful, but it all begins with dependable connectivity, reliable internet access with reasonable speed. Today’s announcement shows that in this crisis the City is doing what’s necessary to put the conditions in place that ensure our school district has the IT infrastructure needed to ensure students can learn.”

Dr Sean E. Vereen, President of Steppingstone Scholars: “Lack of internet access for thousands of K-12 students in the City of Philadelphia has been a significant barrier to classroom success long before the COVID-19 pandemic began. This is an educational crisis, rooted in socioeconomic inequality, and it is one that Steppingstone has been actively working to remedy among our Scholars and partner schools over these past several months. At this moment of reckoning we all have to be willing to move heaven and Earth to give our children the best opportunity to learn. We applaud leaders for recognizing the necessity of immediate action on this issue and we stand ready to support them however we can.”

Sidney Hargro, President of Philanthropy Network Greater Philadelphia: “Now more than ever, we need to find innovative ways to support Philadelphia students. Reliable, at-home internet access is crucial for students and families to succeed in our current environment. The PHLConnectED initiative is a critical first step in achieving digital equity, and I applaud the many civic leaders and our philanthropic community for driving this effort forward.”

Sylvester Mobley, CEO, Coded by Kids: “The connection to the Internet and basic digital literacy skills that this initiative will provide can serve as the foundation for where we must direct our attention in this moment.  If we want young people to be successful, we need to prioritize high-quality virtual learning experiences and help ensure our public schools have the support required to bring this to fruition.”