The state has greatly narrowed the “digital divide” by providing internet service to more than 220,000 students in the past year, Gov. Phil Murphy said Tuesday during a prerecorded State of the State speech in an empty theater at the Trenton War Memorial. His speech was delivered remotely, without an audience, because of the pandemic. 

When the pandemic first forced the closure of New Jersey’s schools in March, “an estimated 230,000-plus students – almost entirely from disadvantaged households – lacked either the laptops or internet accessibility, or both, for remote learning,” Murphy said. 

“So we got to work closing that digital divide, and today, 95% of those students have the tools they need, and we’re close to getting the outstanding gap to zero,” the governor said. 

On Dec. 23, Murphy said in a press briefing that 9,281 of New Jersey’s 1.4 million students remained without internet access.  

The governor pledged to direct funding to school districts to help students who have fallen behind academically during the pandemic. 

“I wish I could tell you that no child is falling behind in this disruptive year,” Murphy said. “But I can’t. That is why our focus must turn to ensuring our students have the academic and social-emotional support needed as they rebound from the stresses of the pandemic. We have already begun to direct funding to school districts that need the most help in getting students back on track.” 

By signing Executive Order 214, the governor said on Jan. 11 that he was suspending graduation exam requirements to help school districts cope with the pandemic. A separate story on the impact of the order is in today’s School Board Notes.  

During the State of the State, the governor said he was proud that New Jersey had expanded access to pre-kindergarten, and that the state has added “more than $750 million in direct classroom funding – and we protected this investment despite the pandemic’s fiscal impacts.” 

While the state has made increased investments in education over the past few years, school districts have maintained that additional resources are required to cover the costs of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other expenses related to the pandemic.