Education Leaders Worry About Digital Divide
As officials map a strategy for public schools this fall in the face of COVID-19, North Carolina education leaders are also reflecting on what’s been learned about the digital divide in the state.
Former North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue, state Senator Deanna Ballard, and Superintendent of Schools for Guilford County Dr. Sharon Contreras met on a virtual press briefing to discuss technology needs in an era of virtual learning.
Perdue said that out of around 1.5 million students in the state, about 600,000 do not have a device like a computer or laptop at home, nor do they have internet connectivity, making remote learning incredibly difficult.
Contreras brought the numbers to a more local level.
“Our census data reports that 18 percent of Guilford County families do not have access to internet," said Contreras. "In addition, 26 percent of Latino families, [and] 20 percent of our Black families reported not having enough devices in the home to support the number of students who must participate in school remotely for four to six hours per day.”
The leaders say the pandemic is a major impediment to equity in education. Contreras says philanthropy alone will not solve the problem of the digital divide and called on the FCC, state legislature, and the federal government to work with telecom companies to help bridge the gap.