WASHINGTON, D.C— Today NEA released Digital Equity for Students and Educators, a report exploring the digital divide for school-aged (5-17 years old) children, which reveals that an estimated one-quarter of those children don’t have what they need for online learning during the pandemic.
“As educators, we believe our students will thrive, no matter what they look like or where they come from. But, for too many students, the door to the virtual classroom is blocked. The impacts of the pandemic are making virtual schooling a much more difficult climb for students of color, particularly Black, Latinx and Native students, as well as for our rural students," said NEA President Becky Pringle.
“Still, we need to continue to advocate for politicians to do their jobs. We have an opportunity to come together and fight for what our students need. Together, in this moment, we can build for a future with healthy and strong communities and public schools.”
Researchers from Public Policy Associates reviewed data from the American Community Survey (ACS) to more fully explore the digital divide among students across the country, and to develop a profile for each state. The findings are congruent with other recent studies using ACS data. (Visit www.nea.org/digitalequity for state-by-state data.).
“Congress must act to ensure all school-aged children, particularly students in historically exploited communities, have the basic resources — broadband internet and computer access — to meaningfully participate in remote learning,” said Pringle. “We know that access to the internet is essential for learning. No matter where students live, it is critical for conducting research, doing homework, and, when school buildings are closed, attending class. We are going to fight to achieve broad internet access and the equipment our children need in order to succeed.”
Report findings include:
- An estimated one-quarter of all school-aged children (ages 5-17) live in households without broadband access or a web-enabled device such as a computer or tablet.
- This inequality systematically tracks across historic divisions of race, socioeconomic status and geography.
- School-aged children in households that are below the federal poverty threshold are much less likely (53 percent) than those above the poverty line (79 percent) to have access to both broadband and a computer.
- Children whose parents are homeowners are more likely to have full access (82 percent) than renters (63 percent).
- Parents’ educational attainment is a factor, with those with advanced degrees having the most access (91 percent).
- White school-aged children (80 percent) have better access than African American/Black (64 percent) or Hispanic/Latinx (66 percent) children.
- Just 50 percent of American Indian and Alaskan Native children have full access.
- Families who are likely to have a parent at home during times of remote instruction (e.g., managers, researchers, scientists, computer programmers, or software developers), and those who are not in the labor force, are more likely to have full access than those who do not (77 percent vs. 71 percent).
The report outlines several policies and practices that would help achieve digital equity among K-12 students. Specifically, every student should have access to their own internet-capable device; the federal government should provide sufficient funding to ensure all students have equitable and affordable access to broadband and devices; educators and schools should be equipped with the tools needed to equitably meet students where they are; and educators should be supported by ongoing professional development.
“We must call on Congress to invest in the federal E-rate program, which would provide funds to help schools procure and distribute Wi-Fi hotspots, connected devices and other necessary technology to ensure all our students have the internet access they need to learn,” said Pringle. “With $12 billion in additional funding, the program will equitably distribute funds quickly and efficiently, and help our students get online.”
In February, NEA created the Homework Gap Coalition with more than 60 organizations focused on policy solutions to the digital divide and other issues, which led to the House of Representatives’ passage of the HEROES 2.0 Act.
To view the report in its entirety visit www.nea.org/digitalequity
- Celeste Busser