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Obama Initiative Secures Free Internet Access for Low-Income Students

One million high school students from low-income families will receive free internet access under President Barack Obama's "My Brother's Keeper" initiative for minority males, the White House announced.

The Sprint Corp. and partners will provide tablets, smartphones, laptops and other mobile devices, and four years of service to students who can't access the internet at home.

Education and civil rights groups see internet access as a crucial tool in closing the nation's achievement gaps between high-income and low-income students. In April, Education Week's Benjamin Herold wrote about federal efforts to narrow the so-called "homework gap" experienced by children who struggle to complete online assignments because they have inadequate or no internet access at home. 

Obama launched "My Brother's Keeper" in 2014 in an effort to help improve the lives of boys and young men of color. Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure is a member of the nonprofit organization's board of directors.

In support of the initiative, the U.S. Department of Education announced a $2 million Pay for Success grants to "identify and scale more effective solutions for kids and youth who face barriers to success."

And funds from the department's office of career, technical and adult education will provide funding to explore how expanded career and technical education programs in four communities could improve educational outcomes for potentially at-risk youth, including students from low-income families.

The department's office of English-language acquisition will also partner with the American Institutes for Research to explore how Pay for Success strategies could improve education for English-language learners.

Education Week's Sean Cavanagh wrote about Pay for Success grants for Education Week's Market Brief. Also commonly known as social impact bonds, the grants allow private investors or philanthropies to provide the initial funding to test or scale-up social programs. The federal government pays back the initial investment, with interest, if the programs demonstrate success and certain goals are met.

A new provision in the Every Student Succeeds Act funds the grants.

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