It may not be that surprising but Black, Latino and American Indian/Alaska Native students living in rural communities in California are far more likely than their peers of color in cities to fall into the homework gap with no access to high-speed home internet or digital devices, a new analysis from the Alliance for Excellent Education, the Linked Learning Alliance, and the Small School Districts’ Association shows.
The analysis urges California lawmakers to make a one-time $7 billion investment to expand infrastructure and programs to support high-speed home internet access across the state using state money and federal dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act.
It also calls on the legislature to pass Assembly Bill 34 to enact the Broadband for All Bond Act of 2022 and allow California voters to approve a $10 billion general obligation bond in November to expand high-speed internet infrastructure and services in unserved and underserved communities across the state according to a news release.
The new analysis highlights efforts to close the digital divide for students in rural communities like Corcoran Unified School District and Buttonwillow Union School District. The report analyzes California data from the 2019 American Community Survey on households with children age 17 or younger.
Across the state, 1.6 million children live in homes without high-speed internet, and more than 750,000 have no access to devices, the analysis shows. More than 27% of families living in rural communities in California do not have high-speed home internet access — accounting for 80,000 children — compared to about 18% each in urban areas and statewide. What’s more, equity gaps expand rapidly in rural areas: about 23% of Black households in cities and statewide do not have high-speed home internet access, compared to nearly 40% in rural areas. For American Indian/Alaska Native families, the gap is even bigger: about 21% who live in cities don’t have high-speed internet access at home, compared to nearly half in rural communities. More than 1 in 3 Latino families in rural areas don’t have internet access, compared to about 1 in 4 in cities, the news release added.
California’s Latino children represent the largest group lacking access to high-speed home internet and devices, both in terms of percentage and sheer number. More than one-quarter of Latino households with children do not have high-speed internet access and 14% do not have a computer. That means that nearly 1.1 million Latino children live in homes without high-speed internet access and almost 600,000 do not have a home computer.
“The homework gap existed before COVID, but the pandemic has made it much more urgent that we close the divide between families who have access to the internet and devices and those who do not. With the historic relief funding coming from Congress through the American Rescue Plan, California can lead the way for other states in seizing this moment to tackle this long-standing inequity,” said All4Ed President and CEO Deborah Delisle in the news release. “Every student in California—and across the country—deserve full access to virtual learning from home.”
“Countless young people at an essential time in their social, emotional, and academic development are missing out on the rigorous and relevant educational experiences that keep them motivated, engaged, and on a path to postsecondary success,” said Anne Stanton, president, and CEO of the Linked Learning Alliance via the news release. “Ensuring young people have access to high-speed internet and are connected to their teachers, peers, and sense of purpose is an absolute necessity for economic growth and educational attainment.”
“The digital divide in small rural districts is a digital abyss,” said Tim Taylor, executive director of the Small School Districts’ Association in the news release. “It is time to eliminate the abyss and provide rural schools and communities with equitable opportunities to be successful in the digital age.”
For more on the homework gap, including an interactive map with state-by-state data, go to all4ed.org/homeworkgap.
The Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed) is a Washington, DC-based national policy, practice, and advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring that all students, particularly those underperforming and those historically underserved, graduate from high school ready for success in college, work, and citizenship. All4ed.org
The Linked Learning Alliance is the engine that drives a movement to help every young person determine their own future through a proven approach to education called Linked Learning. Linked Learning integrates rigorous academics with real-world learning and strong support services to prepare students for success in college, career, and life. The Alliance helps create a public will for equity and excellence in education, elevate the practice of Linked Learning across America and advance policies that serve and support all youth. LinkedLearning.org
The Small School Districts’ Association started in 1983 and the mission is to provide relevant information and proactive assistance to small school district governing boards and superintendents through legislative advocacy, collaboration, professional development, and support services. ssda.org