Homework gap a growing focus for nonprofits, lawmakers as closures persist

Dive Brief:

  • After declaring success in the goal of connecting most schools to fast, reliable internet, nonprofit EducationSuperHighway is turning its attention to the “homework gap,” according to The Hechinger Report. More than 9 million students still lack internet access at home.
  • Evan Marwell, CEO and founder of EducationSuperHighway, said school closures triggered a change in attitude about the importance of home internet service for students. Now, some lawmakers indicate they are willing to spend billions of dollars to bridge that gap.
  • The organization launched digitalbridgeK12.org to provide detailed information on the problem, as well as recommendations for policymakers and school leaders, and advice and best practices on topics like how to collect data on connectivity at the district level or purchase in bulk.

Dive Insight:

When schools closed, districts around the country struggled to connect all students equitably to the internet so everyone could continue online learning when schools closed. Los Angeles Unified School District, for example, spent $100 million to improve online learning, working with Verizon to help provide internet access to all students.

Early in the coronavirus pandemic, providers also discounted hot spot programs to make internet connections more affordable. As the crisis continues and affordable deals end, administrators worry families will no longer be able to afford connections. Among solutions, funds from the CARES Act could be earmarked for E-Rate program support through legislation proposed in the House of Representatives. Currently, FCC regulations prevent it from using E-Rate money to connect students’ homes to the internet.

The homework gap is directly tied to the equity gap and students from low-income households are five times less likely to have internet connections. Black and Hispanic children are the most affected, and pressure is mounting on the FCC to make it easier for low-income families to access the internet. Additionally, many rural students are also affected, as some areas in these communities are so remote, they still lack local infrastructure to support access to broadband or cell towers to tether hotspots to. 

Source Article