There were two developments in Massachusetts recently that readers might have overlooked but both of these projects will have enormous impact on a significant number of people in the state.
The first is that the Massachusetts Broadband Institute received federal approval to go ahead with the MassBroadband 123 network project. This stimulus funded project – it received $45.4 million in stimulus funding – will build a 1,338-mile "Internet backbone" that will provide broadband Internet access to people in Western and north central Massachusetts communities.
This is big. Internet access is a critical part of nearly everyone's lives (am I stating the obvious here?) and providing these more rural communities with the ability to fully participate and engage in all aspects of the global community is providing their students, their business people, their teachers with an enhanced ability – really, a fair opportunity -- to fully participate in the 21st century experience.
Bridging this "digital divide" has been a goal of Governor Patrick's and I applaud his efforts. I’m proud of the fact that it is stimulus funds that is enabling this to happen.
Then there is the $350K planning grants that went to 26 potential new "Innovation Schools" across the state. The funding came from $2 million in support from the -- stimulus-funded -- Race to the Top grant as well as support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
These schools – many of which could open as early as September 2011 – will provide excellent academic options for students throughout the state. They are public schools that operate within existing school districts and keep the education funds within each municipality. As Education Secretary Paul Reville said: "For the first time in the Commonwealth’s history, Innovation Schools provide educators and local partners with the opportunity to innovate from the inside out and design a school around the core needs of students. The development of excellent new Innovation Schools statewide will ensure that students have access to the instruction and support we know they need to be successful students and lifelong learners.”
Providing access, education and opportunity is what this great state is all about. I'm glad stimulus was able to help continue to make that happen.