By Jason Allen, with EdLANTA
Educational advocates Nekima Levy Armstrong, Tanesha Peeples, Garris Stroud, Dirk Tillotson, and Zachary Wright have started a petition to the Federal Communications Commission advocating for all families to have free internet access. The COVID -19 pandemic has placed a stronger sense of urgency from public school districts to find ways to support academic instruction as school districts are being closed for traditional meetings for the remainder of the school year.
But how are families in lower-income communities and households effectively continuing education at home?
We must not only consider the needs of students but also their parents’ ability to continue education at home. Ten years ago as a district administrator in the Atlanta Public Schools Family Engagement Department, we had families who did not have access to the internet at home. We see a lot of students coming to school wearing expensive shoes and equate that to adequate resources for learning at home. The disparity of internet access in American homes is just as grave as the bias we have towards students in lower-income communities.
We are asking FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to urge all internet providers to provide free internet to ALL low-income families, even if they have prior debts or have applied for service previously. Parents, your children need your voices more than ever to ensure they continue receiving a fair and free public education.
If Internet providers are going to boast of their efforts to provide free internet to families in poverty, then we must ensure this is happening for all families, shelters, extended stays, motels, and facilities housing families, youth, and citizens. Currently, millions of families across America are facing even greater economic hardships and are being rejected from these free internet offers.
Let’s come together to bridge the digital divide and help public school districts infuse virtual learning effectively. During this time of social distancing, corporations should not be allowed to block access to public education by capitalizing on children in lower-income communities in pursuit of profit.
Jason Allen has worked in education for over 15 years as a teacher, blogger and community advocate. He speaks and writes primarily about the need to improve education for Black boys, particularly increasing the number of Black male educators in schools. In addition to blogging here at EdLanta, Jason is also a featured writer at Education Post.