With distance learning front and center, education officials urge lawmakers to close technology gap

National

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) ─ The coronavirus pandemic has forced students, parents and teachers to adapt to distance learning, and the Nation Education Association says it’s widening the digital divide.

“Technology is becoming more and more important in the education of our students,” NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia said.

She said some students are technologically underequipped for remote learning.

“It’s scary because depending on what technology you have in your home – that teacher may not have seen you for two months,” Eskelsen Garcia said.

She said the higher the poverty level, the more frightened teachers are of not meeting students needs.

“Their parents can’t afford Wi-Fi, or dad doesn’t have a laptop,” Eskelsen Garcia said.

Eskelsen Garcia says lawmakers have the opportunity to fix this now and connect students with their teachers no matter the circumstance.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, recently introduced a bill that would provide $4 billion to close that technology gap.

“We need to address this digital divide now,” she said. “Providing money to provide universal Wi-Fi and Internet…we need iPads, we need computers, we need tablets.”

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas said he recognizes how vital Internet access is, but he is unsure of Gillibrand’s plan.

“If you don’t have access to the Internet, your child may be falling behind,” he said. “I just want to make sure we’re doing it in a reasonable and efficient way.”

Cornyn is one of several Republicans Gillibrand will need to win over in order to get her plan added into the next coronavirus relief package.

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