CTF Florida Coalition Supporter Spotlight: Manatee Education Foundation

For over three decades, the Manatee Education Foundation has supported the Manatee County School District by serving as a liaison between the private sector and the public school system.  In that role, we foster business, industry, and community involvement to help fund innovative programs for students and teachers beyond allocated state dollars. For example, our Foundation has supported student academic scholarships like the Barry Jones Scholarship, as well as teaching grants like the MEF Teacher Impact Grants, valued at over $100,000 a year. Above all, the Foundation is committed to ensuring that all students in the district have the opportunities and tools needed to achieve personal and academic success – and that includes access to reliable, high-speed broadband.

While 97% of Florida’s population has access to a broadband connection, 804,000 Floridians – including students in Manatee County – remain without reliable, high-speed internet access and are deprived of the benefits and opportunities it offers.

That’s why the Manatee Education Foundation strongly supports Connect the Future Florida’s efforts to address the existing roadblocks that inhibit the broadband infrastructure deployment so that all Floridians can be connected to the internet, as quickly as possible.  

Fortunately, Governor Ron DeSantis and the Florida State Legislature have taken critical steps this session toward addressing this issue by passing the Broadband Deployment Act, or HB 1239. This Act will help bring broadband to the state’s rural areas by increasing access to critical infrastructure like utility poles, and by establishing a funding mechanism for current and future broadband projects. This new law will ensure that more of Florida’s schools, businesses, farmers, and families in rural and hard-to-reach areas of the state finally obtain internet connectivity.

While the Broadband Deployment Act is certainly a step in the right direction, there is still much work to be done to completely and permanently close Florida’s digital divide. Our team at the Manatee Education Foundation will continue to stand with CTF Florida to urge our elected leaders to advance additional reforms aimed at speeding access to pole infrastructure throughout all Florida communities – so that all Floridians can be connected.