SACRAMENTO – The Budget Center released a new report — Distance Learning & the Digital Divide — highlighting the racial and economic inequities blocking millions of K-12 students’ ability to log on and learn from their homes.
Ensuring every student has the chance to succeed across California’s schools is the key to broadening opportunity as well as to providing our state with the skilled, productive workforce necessary to drive long-term economic growth. By analyzing state spending and other policies related to K-12 schools, community colleges, and the CSU and UC systems, the Budget Center highlights how California can strengthen its most basic investment in the state’s future and improve outcomes for all students, especially first-generation college students and those who have not been provided equitable opportunities.
As California students of all ages cannot fully return to classrooms due to the COVID-19 pandemic, learning from home and the technology needed exposes the state’s digital divide. Distance learning requires computers, tablets, or other devices as well as a reliable, high-speed internet connection, but inequitable access to this technology creates a persistent digital divide that disproportionately affects low-income, Black, and Latinx students. This digital divide was affecting students’ academic achievement before the pandemic, and distance learning has likely exacerbated these existing disparities.
Nearly 270,000 of California’s public K-12 students experienced homelessness in 2018-19. This includes children temporarily staying with other families due to economic hardship, and children living in motels, shelters, vehicles, public spaces, or substandard housing.
Building off of the California Budget & Policy Center’s Dollars and Democracy: A Guide to the State Budget Process, this presentation focuses on the K-12 experience and explains why the state budget matters for California’s K-12 students and families, teachers, and schools. The goal is to help the many people who come into contact with their K-12 schools understand the state budget process and recognize opportunities for community engagement as decisions about dollars for students and schools are decided by state policymakers.
The federal COVID-19 response efforts include measures to help college students weather this crisis. For example, California students will receive at least $854 million in emergency aid for expenses related to disruptions to pursuing their education, such as housing, food, and child care costs.