Officials discuss proposals for fixing deep disparities in education digital divide

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Federal and state officials said Wednesday that the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed grave disparities in education and the digital divide, posing challenges at all levels of government.

Speaking at The Hill’s “The Future of Education” event, Rep. Alma Adams (D-N.C.) described how access to equipment only solves half the problem.

“The laptops that many of our schools are providing, if you aren’t able to connect that somewhere, you still have a problem,” Adams, a member of the House Education and Labor Committee, told The Hill’s Steve Clemons.

“We’ve got to make the kinds of investments that are needed in education to make sure we have this equitable access, because we do have so many vulnerable and marginalized communities,” said Adams, who is also co-chair of the HBCU Caucus. “I think that Congress has a role in education, and I’ve always believed that.”

Speaking at the same event, Jessica Rosenworcel, acting chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), said affordability is the biggest hurdle, particularly in rural and urban communities.

“What we need to do is come up with programs that help households that are struggling with paying rent, paying for groceries, keep their internet bill so they can stay online for work, for school, for healthcare, and more,” Rosenworcel said at the event co-sponsored by American Federation of Teachers and Nokia.

The FCC recently established the Emergency Broadband Benefit program, which provides low-income households with discounted broadband services and discounts for devices like computers and tablets.

Students nationwide have had to adapt to virtual learning over the past year as coronavirus restrictions forced most schools hold classes online. The Biden administration is aiming to have the majority of K-12 schools open in the next 50 days, but the slow start and mixed messages from the White House have drawn criticisms, particularly from Republicans.

Tags Alma Adams Broadband classrooms COVID-19 Digital divide Education Jessica Rosenworcel Pandemic rural broadband schools teachers
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