Edison International recently donated 600 refurbished laptops to the California Bridging the Digital Divide Fund. (Photo by Jean Anderson)

Edison International announced a $520,000 donation to the California Bridging the Digital Divide (BDD) Fund, a statewide effort to provide students with equitable access to quality public education during the COVID-19 pandemic. The donation will result in hundreds of refurbished laptops and expanded internet access for school districts in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino and Tulare counties.

Edison International’s gift is comprised of an in-kind donation of 600 refurbished laptops, valued at $270,000, and $250,000 in cash grants.

“The COVID-19 crisis in K-12 education is taking a disproportionate toll on students, families and educators in our communities,” said Caroline Choi, senior vice president of Corporate Affairs at Edison International and Southern California Edison. “This donation will equip school districts in our service area with needed resources to support distance learning for thousands of students and teachers.”

The grants were paid using Edison International shareholder dollars, not SCE customer funds.

The Inglewood School Unified School District in Los Angeles County is among those receiving learning resources – hotspots, laptops and notebook computers – funded by Edison International’s cash grants, along with the Lake Elsinore Unified School District (Riverside County) and the Farmersville Unified School District (Tulare County).

The California BDD Fund is a joint effort of the Governor’s Office, the State Board of Education, the California Department of Education, and the Californians Dedicated to Education (CDE) Foundation. Edison International partnered with CDE Foundation, which purchased the learning resources in bulk using funds from Edison International’s cash grants. Based on initial survey data, the foundation identified the schools most in need, and allocated the items accordingly.

State Sen. Steven Bradford (D-35), whose district includes Inglewood, said, “Inglewood students and their families have been working hard at the difficult task of adapting to distance learning, and I thank Edison for their meaningful support. The need for distance learning has proven that the digital divide is real in both rural and urban communities. As these students and Inglewood USD continue to respond to COVID-19 with safe, remote-learning methods, students deserve as much support as we can provide them. Edison’s support of this community is much appreciated.”

Two San Bernardino County schools – Twentynine Palms High School of the Morongo Unified School District, and Clement Middle School of the Redlands Unified School District – will receive 400 and 200 laptops, respectively, with updated software for distribution to students. The laptops were previously used by SCE employees before they were refurbished.

The California BDD Fund seeks to address the digital divide to build more equitable teaching and learning environments, especially for special education, English learner, low-income, and rural populations.

“We need to use technology as a tool to educate and not just for distance learning. Devices are part of how we do schooling in the 21st century,” said Wendy Dougherty, chief operating officer of the CDE Foundation. “We look at this as an opportunity to bridge the digital divide. Hopefully, we have raised awareness of this critical issue for the long term.”