Of the many educational inequities highlighted by the pandemic, perhaps the most glaring has been the “digital divide” — the gap in technology access between students from low-income families and their more affluent peers.
Even after a year of remote learning, a Census Bureau study showed that 1 in 5 California households with K–12 students did not consistently have sufficient internet access for virtual school.
The situation has been particularly troubling for students of color: Black and Latino students are 30% to 40% more likely to have limited access to the internet, according to a UCLA report.
Just as redlining for decades prevented countless families of color from buying homes, today’s unequal broadband distribution systems also prevent families of color from accessing essential high-quality Wi-Fi because of where they live.
The opportunity and achievement gaps between students of color and their white peers will likely grow unless California quickly closes the chasm between the digital haves and have-nots. Bringing low-cost, reliable broadband into the homes of all California students is an urgent priority.
Assembly Bill 156, which Gov. Gavin Newsom signed earlier this month, and which could eventually ensure critical broadband infrastructure throughout the Golden State, is an important step in this direction. But California must move faster in order to help students already suffering the effects of the pandemic school shutdown.