Tell Legislators: Bridge the Digital Divide

Today, the Maryland General Assembly is taking early steps toward addressing one of the most pressing issues facing our community: bridging the digital divide. The Maryland House Economic Matters Committee will hold a hearing on House Bill 97, the Digital Connectivity Act of 2021, which establishes an Office of Digital Inclusion in the MD Department of Housing and Community Development to ensure that every resident of the State is supported by high-quality broadband Internet service at an affordable price and has the tools necessary to use and take advantage of the Internet. Since March 2020, several grants from BCF’s COVID-19 Evolving Community Needs Fund have supported efforts to help students get connected to online learning, either by providing devices and hotspots to families, funding learning centers where students in need could go to get online, and/or providing technical assistance and digital literacy coaching to families in need. However, the pandemic has made clear that these stopgap measures are not enough to meet the digital access needs of hundreds of thousands of Marylanders – which go beyond remote learning to include things such as workforce development and telehealth. Furthermore, BCF operates from the knowledge that profound disparities in opportunity exist between people of color and their white counterparts; and we acknowledge the historic and ongoing role that structural racism plays in creating and perpetuating those disparities.  We are committed to reducing racial disparities and fostering more equity and inclusion through our advocacy as well as our grantmaking and impact investing. In the case of digital access, we know that while comprising only 30 percent of Maryland’s population, African American households constitute nearly 40 percent of Maryland households without wireline broadband service connection. Shanaysha Sauls, President & CEO of the Baltimore Community Foundation, submitted written testimony in support of HB 97, and on behalf of BCF joined with 48 other organizations to sign a letter noting that “the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and exacerbated pre-existing racial and socioeconomic inequities in Maryland. In an increasingly digital world, access to technology is vitally important for connection to educational curricula, job opportunities, health care, and relationships with loved ones.” We urge you to join us in this push for a more equitable Baltimore region with action and more information below.

LEARN MORE:

A recent paper by the Johns Hopkins University’s 21st Century Cities Initiative entitled Achieving Digital Equity in Baltimore outlines the scale of the challenge and a roadmap to address the fact that 40 percent of Baltimore’s 243,000 households had no wired internet service, according to the 2019 American Community Survey, and one-third had no access to a desktop or laptop. Also this month, the Community Development Network of Maryland (CDN) released a research report, funded by a grant from the Abell Foundation, entitled Disconnected in Maryland: Statewide Data Show the Racial and Economic Underpinnings of the Digital Divide.

ADVOCATE:

This year, every Maryland General Assembly House or Senate floor session, committee hearing and committee voting session will be live-streamed. You will find the link to watch the hearing live on Tuesday, January 26, 2021 at 1:30 p.m. on the House Economic Matters Committee webpage at Committees – Economic Matters Committee (maryland.gov). Once the hearing starts, we will also post the link on BCF’s social media channels to watch live. Contact your Maryland State Senator and Delegates to encourage passage of the Digital Connectivity Act (HB97/SB66). You can find your delegation’s contact information on the Maryland General Assembly website: Members – Find My Representatives (maryland.gov). Follow BCF on Facebook and Twitter for updates on our efforts to address digital equity throughout the 2021 General Assembly session and beyond.

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Building Stronger Neighborhoods Regionwide

Building Stronger Neighborhoods Regionwide

We have a nearly 30-year history of offering grants to resident-led groups and community projects in Baltimore City and Baltimore County. These grants give residents the resources they need to accomplish a small project, get more people involved, and encourage the next generation of neighborhood leaders. We also fund programs that support the development of leaders of all ages who are working to improve their neighborhoods and schools. Our support is intended to help identify, activate, inform and network leaders. And finally, we believe when schools and neighborhoods team up to improve their school and community, meaningful and lasting change can be made. We are interested in funding proposals in which the students and adults in schools collaborate intentionally with community residents, neighborhood associations, and other individuals, groups, and institutions in the area surrounding a school.

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School Leadership

We believe that attracting and retaining effective and diverse school leaders is a key lever for change in Baltimore's educational landscape, and so we fund school leadership development efforts at the district and individual school level. We are interested in funding proposals that focus on principal coaching, mentoring, peer networking, wellness/self-care, as well as pipelines that identify and develop new leaders. We will also continue to support efforts that build a culture of appreciation and encouragement for school leaders.

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Melissa McC. Warlow
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Place-based Grantmaking in Selected School Communities

Place-based Grantmaking in Selected School Communities

We have allocated funds for two geographical areas that bookend a crucial corridor on the Westside of Baltimore City: Howard Park /Forest Park area (served by Calvin Rodwell Elementary Middle School and Liberty Elementary), and Reservoir Hill/Penn North area (served by Dorothy I Height Elementary). In these three schools and their surrounding neighborhoods, we will support projects and activities designed to make the communities safe, clean, green and vibrant; and improve the quality of the schools. Some projects may be neighborhood-focused, some school-focused and others collaborative projects between the schools and their respective communities.

Early Learning & Judy Centers

Early Learning & Judy Centers

High quality early childhood education has a lifelong effect on students. Through our Early Learning grant program, we are interested in system-wide early childhood education proposals that will help Baltimore City and County's youngest learners, and their families, get the start they need. Nonprofit organizations that offer programs and/or services to Judy Centers are encouraged to contact the centers directly to explore partnership opportunities.

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John A. Gilpin

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Director of Planned Gifts
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Kate Sam

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Cathy Brill

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