In June 2021, we published our third equity alert focused on the digital divide, entitled, “Bringing Broadband Home: How School Districts Can Help Connect Students With High-Speed Internet Now.” In this brief, we highlight the important role school districts can play and outline eight actions school districts can take now to ensure all students have home broadband by fall 2021.
If we have learned anything in education over the past 15 months, it is that access to high-quality internet is as essential to schooling as textbooks, desks, and other materials. However, even after more than a year of mostly remote learning, one in five California households with K–12 students don’t consistently have the internet access they need for learning. The situation is particularly troubling for students of color: UCLA researchers estimated that Black and Latinx students are 30-40% less likely to have robust access to the internet. Some progress has been made, and there is a temptation to move on from this issue now with plans to more fully reopen in-person learning in the fall. But we cannot lose momentum on making sure all students have high-speed internet at home. The time for action is now, as new data and new funding from the federal government have put the goal of home broadband for all students in reach for districts across the nation.
While broader reforms and investments in infrastructure are absolutely needed, these changes will take years to enact. In the near-term, school districts have the critical data and relationships needed to connect students and families to existing resources now.