State Superintendent Tony Thurmond Announces Major Collaboration with Apple and T-Mobile to Connect


SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced today that the California Department of Education (CDE) is collaborating closely with Apple and T-Mobile to connect up to 1 million students in need as most schools across California expect to begin the next school year in distance learning.

At a time when schools have experienced a shortage of available computing devices, the two companies are teaming up with the state to facilitate technological access that currently prevents hundreds of thousands of students from connecting with their teachers, peers, and school communities. Apple and T-Mobile will fulfill orders from districts—which could reach up to 1 million students—with discounted iPads already equipped with high-speed internet connectivity.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced an estimated 97 percent of California’s 6.2 million students to resume their school year in distance learning. Since April, the State Superintendent and his Closing the Digital Divide Task Force—in collaboration with the Governor’s Office, state lawmakers, and nonprofits such as the Californians Dedicated to Education Foundation—have been working to remove inequitable barriers to student access by working with internet service providers, tech companies, device manufacturers, and others to increase access to devices and internet connections.

“As schools are working around the clock to prepare students and families for virtual learning, I want to commend Apple and T-Mobile for stepping up in a monumental way to support California’s neediest students,” said Thurmond. “As Californians, we have a shared commitment to ensure every student has access to the basic tools needed to connect to their learning, succeed in today’s world, and pursue their dreams. This commitment provides schools across the state a unique chance to put devices in the hands of students now, while potentially making longer-term investments that can help us remove these inequities once and for all.”

iPad with cellular offers a powerful and portable solution for schools that will keep students engaged in learning from anywhere. Apple's Professional Learning team is dedicated to supporting educators and will be providing weekly virtual training sessions for California teachers, offering creative strategies for learning remotely. Apple also offers one-to-one virtual coaching sessions and teachers can gain foundational technology skills through the Apple Teacher Learning Center, available at no cost. Since March, Apple has led more than 150 thousand educator coaching sessions worldwide.

"At Apple, we believe technology has the power to transform the learning experience for students at all levels,” said Susan Prescott, Apple’s vice president of Markets, Apps, and Services. “We are proud the State of California has chosen iPad to facilitate remote learning, and during these challenging times we look forward to working with administrators and school districts across the state to help make learning more accessible for their students.”

In response to the pandemic, T-Mobile has accelerated its efforts to help close the digital divide and enable families and schools to embrace remote learning, connecting hundreds of thousands of kids for virtual learning in over 300 school districts nationwide, even before this landmark collaboration with the State of California.

“Education is the great leveler in our society but only if everyone can access it. The pandemic has exposed just how widespread and detrimental the digital divide really is for millions of children in this country. At T-Mobile, we’re committed to doing something about it, and we’re incredibly proud to partner with Apple to help the State of California connect up to a million students when they need it most,” said Mike Katz, EVP of T-Mobile for Business.

CDE’s commitment to working with Apple and T-Mobile comes at the same time the Governor’s Office and lawmakers included $5.3 billion in one-time funding in the state budget for schools to strengthen distance learning heading into the same year. These funds can be used immediately for purchasing needed technology. Under the arrangement, T-Mobile will provide discounted service and Apple is offering special pricing for iPad + cellular, which has been available to schools on top of its education volume pricing, to enable all learners during this time.

The CDE will provide instructions to school districts to submit orders to Apple and T-Mobile. At least 100,000 devices can be ready to arrive through the back to school time frame, according to Apple and T-Mobile. The companies expect to be able to fulfill school district demand through the end of 2020.

School district leaders will have the opportunity to learn more about pricing options, ordering procedures, and timelines for deliveries during a special webinar of the Closing the Digital Divide Task Force at 11 a.m. today. The webinar will be broadcast live on CDE’s Facebook page and school district leadership teams can register on Zoom at https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_Ojom6-BXS2idutF2RKC8U