The digital divide has been on the minds of educators and parents navigating through COVID-19 for the last year. Many would agree that the digital divide is a virtual nightmare for students who are students stuck in the middle without access to digital learning. This includes having access to the internet but not the bandwidth needed on their device to connect. Other students have had access to neither the internet or a device.
The 74, released an article detailing why the digital divide is an education threat. I agree; it is an education threat, especially to the hundreds of thousands of students who are failing in public schools. I also would argue that it is a violation of students in lower income communities, those with learning disabilities, and many who are Black to the right to a free and fair education.
Free and fair simply isn’t enough. Public school districts should have the funding to provide the needed resources for learning for any and each student and their needs. The 74 hints arounds this but doesn’t come out and state that we need to change the funding formula for schools on the state level.
“We need an equitable education and that begins with an even playing field for every student. Like we all should be receiving what’s best for us to excel and that may not be the same thing another student needs!” Christopher Riser, 7 Pillars Career Academy student and EdLanta Student Coalition leader.
My students and student activists in the EdLanta Student Coalition have been engaged in conversations around equitable outcomes for Black and brown students during the pandemic. “What does equity look like for you as a student?” is the first question we address.
As my students began to share their perspectives, like I suspected, in fact, equity looks different for each of them. They all have an opinion about what is needed and what should be done to end the digital divide. What is agreed upon is that equity begins with providing better educational outcomes for students of color.
Noelle Ellerson Ng, of AASA, The School Superintendents Association, told the U.S. News that the pandemic didn’t create the homework gap. She shared in the interview that, “The pandemic just ripped it wide open. It was education’s worst-kept secret, and now it’s out in the limelight and somehow still able to be ignored.” Teachers have been on the frontlines often risking their careers to stand up for their students’ civil rights. Public school districts have lukewarm policies on engaging families. Family engagement is a critical aspect of continuing education at home.
Some public school districts don’t make the investment in policies around family, community and student engagement with real power to truly impact educational programming outside of the classroom. Teachers are doing what they can to reimagine what classrooms look like during COVID-19 and virtual learning, but they need the financial backing to serve their students well.
Jason B. Allen is a Special Education Teacher in Clayton County, Georgia. He is a member of the Association of American Educators (AAE) and an AAE Foundation Advocacy Fellow.
Jason has worked in education for over 15 years as a teacher, blogger and community advocate. He speaks and writes primarily about the need to improve education for Black boys, particularly increasing the number of Black male educators in schools. In addition to blogging here at EdLanta, Jason is also a featured writer at Education Post.