- MKF Initiative to Launch a Series of Efforts Aimed at Serving Montclair’s Kids -
[Montclair, New Jersey – June 25, 2015] In response to the alarming achievement gap in Montclair’s public schools, Montclair Kids First (MKF) announced today that it is sponsoring financially disadvantaged Montclair families with free home Internet access for four years. In collaboration with JerseyOn, a statewide nonprofit focused on connecting low-income students and their families to the Internet, MKF will fund the purchase of a series of Sprint NETGEAR Fuse Mobile Hotspot devices. The technology will be made available to all Montclair resident parents whose children attend Montclair public schools and qualify for the District’s free & reduced lunch program. MKF hopes to ensure that over 1,500 Montclair students will have the opportunity to receive free Internet access in their homes. Today’s announcement will also serve as the first in a series of ambitious and innovative initiatives by MKF to serve Montclair students.
Each hotspot device will provide 3GBs of free monthly data service for four continuous years on Sprint’s 4GLTE network. There will be no cost or obligation to the user. Specifically, the device will be restricted to educational use. As part of the negotiations, Sprint and JerseyOn will ensure each Internet access device will block anything deemed inappropriate for children.
Over the summer months, MKF will proactively outreach various community organizations, local religious leaders and Montclair School District leadership in hopes of building additional partnerships around this initiative. If the introduction and implementation of the program is successful, MKF hopes to develop and grow the program to sponsor computers and other learning tools and devices to all economically disadvantaged students in Montclair.
“Montclair Kids First passionately believes we must come together to address our achievement gap,” stated MKF member Shelly Lombard. “MKF credits the hundreds of hours Jonathan Simon and the Montclair AGAP panel have dedicated to addressing this issue. Now we must step up and do our share. We have celebrated our town’s deserving achievements, but have ignored issues like the gap for too long. While we live in a wonderful community, we must continue to offer solutions, ideas and support until every child in our town is given equal opportunity to learn and excel.”
“Connectivity provides valuable learning opportunities. It has become critical to preparing kids for college and careers and has become a vital tool for students to communicate with teachers,” stated MKF Member Sam Cole. “Every child in Montclair should be provided this opportunity and it is simply unacceptable that the only way some of our kids are able to access the Internet is from their classroom or our public library. We need a paradigm shift in how our community addresses these and other challenges.
MKF is funding this ambitious effort because each of us believes we have a responsibility to all our kids, neighbors and our public schools. A child’s academic success should never be determined by his or her economic status. A digital, economic and academic divide has existed in Montclair for years and we must work together to address this issue head on.”
“Today’s announcement is the launch of a series of initiatives that MKF will look to fund and implement,” stated MKF Member Matthew Frankel. “Ideas will be announced in partnership with its membership and Montclair’s community organizations and we hope to continue filling voids that address the specific needs of all our kids. These initiatives are optional to Montclair parents. There will be no obligations and will simply be available to the community. It is our hope that those who have not yet joined MKF will do so and lend their voice to developing ideas that will serve our kids.”
“We know that broadband connectivity and digital literacy skills are key to a 21st century education. Unfortunately, too many students in NJ are still unconnected, living on the wrong side of the digital divide. This problem is 100 percent solvable, but it takes excellent, localized program's like MKF's to help close the opportunity gap. I applaud their work,” said JerseyOn Chairman Josh Gottheimer.
When asked about the initiative, Montclair’s AGAP Chair, Jonathan Simon, expressed enthusiasm about the idea. "While we know that socioeconomic status only explains a portion of the achievement gap in our town, we also know that equitable access to resources is a necessary condition for closing the gap. This program provides an opportunity for our families to enhance their children's classroom learning, whether that means an extra resource to complete a project or study for a test. Given the magnitude of our challenge, we welcome any sensible efforts that will help to level the playing field for our kids."
How the initiative will work:
Step One – Equipment Purchase
MKF will purchase each hotspot device.
Step Two – MKF to Partner with Community Organizations
Over the summer months MKF will proactively outreach various community organizations, local religious leaders, and the Montclair School District and ask for their involvement and input to ensure all Montclair’s financially disadvantaged families are aware of this opportunity. MKF will plan to announce these partnerships publically as they become defined.
Step Three – Families Make a Request
By the fall of the 2015-2016 school year, MKF will announce publicly announce a formal process for families to receive their free hotspot device. Equipment purchases by MKF will be based on parent interest from qualifying households. A Montclair parent or guardian must make each request for the hotspot device.
Step Four – Receiving the Internet Device
Distribution will include the free hotspot device, directions on set up and contact information for technical support. The hotspot device will be able to plug it into laptops or computers. The device will provide four years of free Internet access.
If the introduction and implementation of the program is successful, MKF hopes to continue offering the program as an option to newly eligible Montclair families each year. In addition, MKF will look to expand the sponsorship program to ensure that every low income Montclair family also has computers and other learning tools in the home.
About Montclair Kids First
Montclair Kids First (MKF) is a coalition of Montclair parents and residents who believe deeply in the promise of Public Education and in Montclair’s Public School system. The group reflects Montclair’s diverse backgrounds, ideas, and values. Putting our kids first means that every Montclair child has access to a first-rate education, that every Montclair parent is empowered with a strong voice, and that we, as members of the Montclair community, are responsible for providing solutions and supporting initiatives that strengthen our public schools. To learn more please go to - http://www.montclairkidsfirst.org.
JerseyOn, a new state-wide non-profit focused on connecting low-income students and their families, in an effort to bring affordable, high-speed broadband to all residents. JerseyOn works to eliminate the digital, economic, and academic divides by delivering low-cost home Internet, affordable computers, and digital literacy training for the thousands of unconnected people in our state. More information can be found at www.jerseyon.org.