The FCC has approved a three-year, $200 million Schools and Libraries Cybersecurity Pilot Program to help educational institutions improve their cybersecurity.

Why it matters: Cyberattacks on schools are escalating—costing districts millions of dollars and causing significant learning disruptions. According to Education Week80% of K-12 schools were hit by ransomware last year.

Going deeper: The program is set to provide up to $200 million over three years, sourced from the FCC’s Universal Service Fund. Schools and libraries can apply for grants ranging from $15,000 to $1.5 million to cover costs for advanced firewalls, anti-virus protection, and other cybersecurity measures.

  • The program aims to assess how effective these investments are and determine the best ways to protect educational institutions. It will help the FCC gather crucial data to inform future decisions on cybersecurity funding for schools and libraries.

The big picture: This move is part of FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel’s broader Learn Without Limits initiative, which also expanded the E-Rate program to fund Wi-Fi on school buses. The initiative aims to close the digital divide and enhance digital learning environments by providing essential connectivity and security.

Zoom out: Despite the program’s potential, some experts argue that technology alone isn’t enough. In an interview with Education WeekDoug Levin from the K-12 Security Information Exchange highlighted the need for comprehensive solutions beyond just funding technology, saying “It’s leadership. It’s training. It’s capacity. Districts in general are understaffed with respect to technology, but especially with respect to cybersecurity.”

  • A recent survey by Clever found that one-third of districts report a lack of dedicated cybersecurity personnel as their biggest challenge. Additionally, 80% of administrators are concerned about phishing attacks, and half of the districts have recently updated their security protocols for vendors, underscoring the urgent need for robust cybersecurity solutions that are built for the unique needs of K-12 classrooms.