MONTCLAIR, NJ - Nearly 100 Montclair families received free Wi-Fi hotspots on Saturday.

Matthew Frankel, a local resident and prior Special Assistant to the Superintendent of Montclair Schools, was among several volunteers who coordinated the event that gave close to 100 parents of children who receive free and reduced lunch the Wi-Fi hotspots. The free service will last 4 years.

Montclair Kids First (MKF) announced last fall that local community partners came together to raise funds for free home Internet access to financially disadvantaged Montclair families.

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Frankel said, “A clear recommendation in the Achievement Gap Report was addressing the technological inequality." He said enough money was raised to provide 4 years worth of Internet access to anyone who met the criteria and requested the Wi-Fi hot spots." The offering was for around 1500 Montclair families, of which approximately 100 are said to have registered. It was unclear as to the exact amount of money raised, but it was enough to provide nearly 100 hotspots to families in need.

Frankel said, “We promised to offer any parent of a child with free or reduced lunch a guarantee that we would find money for this. At this time we bought 100 hot spots which we are giving out today."

When asked whether truly poor people would actually have devices to connect to the internet, Frankel replied, “In future years we can look to other opportunities, but now this is a small way to help toward equality.” He said any parent taking advantage of this offer would now have the value of what they used to spend on Wi-Fi to use toward other educational endeavors.

Colleen Martinez, a resident who was vocal in her opposition to this cause told Tap into Montclair, “Short term access to free internet is not likely to make a dramatic difference in student educational achievement.” She referred to realities of poverty that were beyond Wi-Fi.

Frankel stated he had received emails from parents saying, “Bless you for what you are doing” and that the support he has received from families benefitting from this outreach has been heart warming.

When informed that Frankel was receiving support on this from community recipients Martinez said, “That’s great. I don’t know that it can hurt. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if the goal isn’t a mailing list for future political activity or to get in the good graces of people less fortunate.” She went on to add, “With all the money they’ve cost the town in lawsuits, it is no surprise that one of their goals may be to appear charitable.”

According to the Achievement Gap Report released in June 2015, the proficiency gap between white and black third graders was 30 percentage points on the ELA section of the NJ ASK. This reflects an improvement over the 2010 scores, which reflect a gap of 40 percentage points. Also according to the report, Asian and Hispanic numbers are smaller, but not insignificant and show that Asians performed slightly better than whites while Hispanic children performed somewhat better than blacks.

The coalition of community organizations include the Montclair Public Library (MPL), Montclair Art Museum (MAM), Montclair State University (MSU), United Way of Northern New Jersey, The Salvation Army Montclair Citadel, Interfaith Hospitality Network of Essex (IHN), Montclair Film Festival (MFF), Improving Montclair Achievement Network Initiative (IMANI), Succeed 2Gether and other Montclair organizations who offered their respective headquarters to serve as “Application Centers,” providing parents another way to obtain the free Wi-Fi application. This application process began in September of 2015.

According to a release issued in September 2015, MKF President Shelly Lombard said, “Our community partners will play a vital role in making sure that families who need Wi-Fi access, but cannot afford it, are aware of this opportunity.”  

She continued saying, “Children who don’t have access to technology are at a real disadvantage in our increasingly digital world.  MKF’s Wi-Fi initiative is a chance for all of us to come together, put the focus back on children, and drive better educational outcomes for all of them.”

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