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California is the second-worst state in the country when it comes to providing students with adequate internet access to learn from home.
The number of students in the state without broadband access to enable them to continue their education is much larger than previously thought, as a return to in-class learning remains uncertain amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The study carried out by Common Sense Media and the Boston Consulting Group reveals that 25% of California’s K-12 students lack adequate connection (1,528,536 students) and 17% lack adequate devices at home (1,063,415 students), making it second only to Texas in states with the largest population of K-12 students without the means to learn from home.
The study also showed that 8% of teachers in the state lack adequate connectivity at home.
Across the country, approximately 15-16 million K-12 public school students, or 30% of all public K-12 students, live in households either without an internet connection or device adequate for distance learning at home.
In light of the findings, Common Sense is urging Congress to close the gap in funding as part of its next emergency stimulus bill in response to the pandemic. The non-profit organization that “provides education and advocacy to families to promote safe technology and media for children,” estimates a price tag of at least $6 billion and as much as $11 billion to connect all kids at home nationwide, and an additional $1 billion to close the divide for teachers throughout the country.
James P. Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense, said that “the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the digital divide for what it is: a nationwide crisis that leaves millions of children and hundreds of thousands of teachers without proper connectivity and tools to conduct distance learning at a time when school increasingly has come to depend on it”
“States like California and others are working hard to address this problem, but our new data and analysis — which reveals a distance learning digital divide that is even worse in California then was previously reported — further highlights the urgency for policymakers, educators, and private companies to do more to address this basic educational equity issue that affects kids, not just in this state, but in every state.” Steyer added.
The study also reported personal stories from teachers across the country, including one Oakland elementary teacher who told Common Sense that “over 30% of our families currently do not have internet at home, 35% of students are accessing online content via parents’ smartphones. That creates a whole other set of challenges: parents needing the phone for their own communication needs, parents being at work and students unable to access online work, limited data plans creating worries about paying bills or losing connectivity.”
The study concludes that the homework gap isn’t just about homework anymore. The lack of access to the internet and a distance-learning device during the COVID-19 pandemic school closures puts these students at risk of significant learning loss.
Find the full report, “Closing the K–12 Digital Divide in the Age of Distance Learning,” here.
Andrew Chamings is a digital editor at SFGATE. Email: Andrew.Chamings@sfgate.com | Twitter: @AndrewChamings
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