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Texas will spend $200 million on computers, internet access for students learning at home

"It is essential that we work to provide Texas students with the devices they need to connect & communicate online for classroom instruction," said Governor Abbott.

AUSTIN, Texas — The digital divide is one of the biggest challenges facing families whose children will begin the school year learning at home because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

State leaders hope to close that gap with $200 million in CARES Act funds to provide computers and internet access to those families.

A recent study found that one in three children in Texas lives in a home that doesn’t have access to the internet. Many fell through the cracks when schools were forced to shut down as the coronavirus spread.

"No child should ever be denied the ability to achieve his/her dreams simply because he/she does not have technological devices or internet access,” said State Senator Juan Hinojosa.

RELATED: TEA updates guidelines for upcoming school year, including option for virtual start

RELATED: 'The cruelest part of the digital divide' | How millions in federal funding fails our students

HISD and many other school districts in coronavirus hot spots like Houston will offer only online learning until it is safe for students and staff to return to schools.

"As school districts delay the start of in-person instruction for the 2020-2021 school year due to COVID-19, it is essential that we work to provide Texas students with the devices they need to connect and communicate online for classroom instruction," said Governor Abbott.

Other districts are offering a choice between in-person and virtual learning.

“Virtual learning works when students have access to the proper wi-fi and electronic devices. These funds help bridge the digital divide and prevent students who lack access to technology from falling behind," said Senator Jane Nelson.

RELATED: HISD: Only 14% of teachers say they would feel safe returning to campus, survey shows

RELATED: Houston-area school districts reveal reopening plans amid COVID-19 pandemic

The TEA will use the eLearning funds to purchase and distribute devices, hotspots, routers, and more based on specific needs identified by local education agencies. 

The funds could potentially help some $1.8 million Texas children stay in school and keep up with their classmates.

Also Friday, the TEA released new guidelines for school districts, including virtual learning.