A campaign begun three weeks ago has raised $23 million to provide computer tablets and free broadband service to Detroit students learning at home during the pandemic. Everything will be in place by early June, the Free Press reports. Foundations and corporations donated the money. The drive began when Jerry Norcia, chief executive of DTE Energy, and Wendell Anthony, president of the local NAACP, were discussing plans to help low-income people with utility bills during the pandemic. "He said, 'Jerry, when are you corporate leaders in Detroit going to fill your big shoes and address a fundamental issue for children in Detroit?'" Norcia said. Suburban districts were able to move to online instruction smoothly when their schools closed, Anthony said, but Detroit students would fall behind academically because they lack internet access.
When his company considered relief efforts, said Norcia, who later led the campaign, "the issue of digital inequity for Detroit students rose to the top." Students will receive iView computers, which are touchscreen tablets with detachable keyboards that run on Windows 10. Teleconferencing and online collaboration software is included. A professor who's researched the issue said the program by itself won't eliminate the digital divide, which shuts poor areas out of internet access, but he said, "This is a huge deal." The mayor of Detroit agrees. "When we look back to this time in 10 years, we will see that this moment changed the trajectory of education in our city,” said Mike Duggan, per WDIV. (Read more Detroit stories.)