Ohio Students Deserve the Digital Learning Tools They Need
Congress has the responsibility to ensure each student has access to an equitable learning experience.
[LIBERTY TOWNSHIP, OH] — The digital divide is more visible than ever. Kids who previously relied on libraries or community centers for computer and Internet access are being left behind. Pandemic aside, how can school districts be expected to provide equitable learning experiences when they aren’t equipped to provide technology to students who need it the most?
Alaina Shearer, a Democratic Candidate for Ohio’s 12th Congressional District, is making this issue a focus of her campaign in the coming weeks. Her team is working with local school districts around Ohio’s 12th Congressional District to learn more about the struggles they are facing as they dive into digital learning, many for the first time. They will be sharing their findings over the next several weeks.
“Without laptops, I have no idea how I would be able to homeschool our four children every day during this pandemic,” said Shearer. “We need a solution that gives Ohio’s students adapted- but not interrupted- learning, no matter what school district they live in.”
Access to technology differs between school districts. In OH-12, some districts have transitioned to 100% online learning, some are at 100% paper-based learning, and others have the option for both, depending on the student’s digital access. In those districts, parents are responsible for providing the necessary technology if their students are to learn online.
Part of the CARES Stimulus Package is earmarked for Education Stabilization. This funding is a great start, but right now, many districts need to use that money to continue paying teachers and staff members. Congress will need to consider additional stimulus packages as we continue fighting through this pandemic as a country. Shearer’s campaign is asking Congress to consider direct funding for learning technology: laptops or tablets, internet access, and necessary learning applications.
“We need a package that provides immediate relief to students that are falling behind due to lack of technological access while paving the way for these laptops/tablets and internet service to remain after the pandemic comes to an end,” said Shearer.
Shearer’s plan to get essential technology into the hands of students would provide emergency funds directly to individual school districts, who would make devices available to students based on need. As a result of the short timeline, building internet infrastructure is not realistic. If the student does not have access to adequate wireless internet, the school district would have the ability to provide devices capable of connecting to cellular networks.
This plan would put critical decisions in the hands of the school districts, which allows the plan to be highly personalized and adaptive to each region of the state.
Because the highest initial barrier to getting technology to students in need is the cost of the devices, this program would also jumpstart the nation-wide push to provide digital learning tools to students and lessen the burden on states and individual school districts.
“Each of us is fighting a multifront battle, having to make choices for ourselves, for our families, for our communities, and for our nation that we never fathomed we would be making just one month ago,” said Shearer. “That battle should not include worrying that our students cannot continue their education from home.”
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