Viewpoints

California kids need $17 million to close digital divide, Newsom can make that happen

Students Esperanza Hernandez, left, and Teagan Garcia use chromebooks in Joanie Bryant’s class at Waggoner Elementary School on Dec. 18, 2017 in Winters, Calif. (Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
Students Esperanza Hernandez, left, and Teagan Garcia use chromebooks in Joanie Bryant’s class at Waggoner Elementary School on Dec. 18, 2017 in Winters, Calif. (Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times/TNS) TNS

Truly personalized learning. This is how Lindsay Unified School District in the Central Valley is shifting how we think about what it means to take ownership of one’s educational journey. A once low-performing district has now become a model for redesigned learning.

This happened with innovative thinking and an investment in technology – specifically access to high-speed internet.

California is a global powerhouse when it comes to technological innovations and we should expect every child in the state to have the same access to advanced learning opportunities as the students at Lindsay Unified. From Silicon Beach to Silicon Valley, California companies are constantly making headlines and blazing new trails.

So, it’s surprising and disheartening to realize that, in 2019, not all of our students enjoy the most basic digital learning programs. Here are the facts on what is needed to get California public schools up to speed:

About 150,000 K-12 students in California still don’t have access to the most basic internet speeds.

Over 120 schools still need fiber infrastructure – the technology that allows classrooms to easily increase Internet speeds as digital learning needs continue to expand.

More than half of these schools are in rural districts and in some of the most underserved areas of our state.

We’ve seen firsthand how fast Internet connection can make a world of difference to student learning. That’s why it’s simply unacceptable for thousands of kids in our state to still be left behind.

Opinion

Gov. Newsom said throughout his campaign that investing in California’s kids to help them get ahead was a top priority. Now is the time for the Newsom administration to step up to ensure that our students get the education they deserve.

We know progress can happen when the right people are involved. The implementation of the Broadband Infrastructure Improvement Grant by the Brown administration allowed schools to upgrade infrastructure to support computer-based testing. But we can’t stop there and claim victory.

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Evan Marwell

BIIG sets a low bar. In the 21st century, it’s not enough to just give students basic connectivity. We need to give them the modern infrastructure needed to integrate digital learning into every classroom, every day.

We at EducationSuperHighway have done the math and we know the players. We need State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, county offices of education and education groups like K12 High Speed Network at the table to get an additional $17 million. That’s what’s needed to connect California’s remaining schools to high-speed broadband.

It’s not a small amount of money, but the investment will pay huge dividends for all of our children in California.

I have seen the benefits first hand across the country and know that students in California will be able to learn and achieve much more when they’re engaged in a technology-rich learning environment. The tools are there, and the remaining schools are just waiting for the infrastructure to catch up.

All we need now is a bold and definitive commitment from the governor to ensure we close this final gap. That’s why I’m urging Gov. Newsom to renew and expand the BIIG Grant and allocate funding to make sure we’re closing the final digital divide in our state.

Evan Marwell is the Founder and CEO of EducationSuperHighway, which is working to upgrade and bring high-speed broadband Internet access to every public school classroom in America.
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