Gaping Digital Divide Among L.A. Students Is A Civil Rights Issue, Superintendent Carvalho Says

Los Angeles school officials on Tuesday announced a $50-million effort to provide adequate internet to all families in the nation’s second-largest school system — the latest try at closing a persistent digital divide that has limited learning for students whose families can’t afford to pay for high-speed Wi-Fi access.

L.A. Unified estimates that about 20% of students — about 90,000 children — either still lack broadband service or don’t have enough bandwidth to meet academic needs — despite an initial emergency rush at the onset of distance learning two years ago to remedy the problem. The new initiative is targeted to reach all of them for one year using short-term federal funding to cover about 96% of the cost. It looks as though federal resources also will be available for a second year, Supt. Alberto Carvalho said in a kickoff ceremony at Bell High School.

The school system will offer access both to connect families and to demonstrate the necessity of this connection to federal and state officials — with the hope that permanent funding would be provided.

“Connectivity and universal ubiquitous access to digital content anytime anywhere, whether in school, in the community, in the park or the public library, is a civil right that must be delivered to our generation,” Carvalho said.

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