COVID-19 crisis and subsequent school closures have magnified and intensified existing inequities in our educational systems. One of the biggest issues is that many children cannot access education during quarantine, a fundamental breach of our children’s right to an education. While school districts in wealthier and whiter neighborhoods have been able to quickly transition to online learning, providing the necessary laptops and tablets to their students, kids from low-income communities and communities of color have not had the same access to internet and technological hardware.
These digital inequities broadcast the separate and unequal education systems Washington State has designed and call for meaningful action and long-term investments from our local, county, and state governments so that each and every child can receive a high-quality education, even during an international emergency.
Digital inclusion experts recommend a three-pronged approach to closing the digital divide, typically represented through a “three-legged stool.” The Equity in Education Coalition is calling for public investments in 1) fast and affordable internet access, 2) devices and hardware for the whole family, and 3) accessible and ongoing opportunities to advance digital skills.
Fast and affordable internet access is crucial in connecting families.. WA faces many internet deserts in rural, suburban, and urban areas. We need Wi-Fi, hotspot, and broadband infrastructure that is high quality and accessible for everyone.
The high cost of technology is a huge barrier to achieving digital equity. Accessible and affordable devices, like tablets and laptops, for the entire family is critical in ensuring statewide access to the internet.
Building an accessible digital literacy continuum to help people navigate basic digital skills will provide the support needed to get our communities online.