SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond and state leaders heard from cross-sector partners about ways they are working together to strengthen distance learning efforts and close technology gaps for millions of students during Monday’s first hearing of the newly created Closing the Digital Divide Task Force.
During the 90-minute hearing co-chaired by Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino), executives from internet service providers AT&T, Charter Communications, Comcast, Cox Communications, and Verizon updated task force members on their efforts to support the technology needs of students during the COVID-19 pandemic, ways they are reducing barriers to low-income families, and plans to expand service to rural communities.
Executives from each internet service provider vowed to remain members of the task force and to work collaboratively to design long-term solutions that support students’ success.
A full video archive of the hearing can be found on CDE’s Facebook page at http://facebook.com/CAEducation.
“Partnerships with the private and public sectors are critical to overcoming the technological barriers facing our students, and we are grateful for how quickly needs are being addressed through donations of devices and hotspots,” said Thurmond. “But there is still a tremendous amount of need among our state’s most vulnerable students. We must continue working together to close the digital divide, not just as a band-aid during this public health crisis, but once and for all.”
“Now that we have completed our first meeting of the Closing the Digital Divide Task Force, it is clear that meeting the technological needs of students across California must remain a top priority,” said Leyva. “I look forward to working with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, Governor Gavin Newsom’s administration, internet service provider companies, school administrators, teachers, parents, students, and other stakeholders to address the digital divide in our state. By closing the technology gap, we will ultimately be able to improve the success and achievement of all California students.”
During Monday’s hearing, task force members received an update on the CDE’s partnership with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to distribute a total of $30 million to support internet connectivity, as well as updates from Google and Amazon about their donations of thousands of devices and hotspots for students.
Additionally, educational leaders from two California school districts—Dr. Edgar Lampkin, Superintendent of the Williams Unified School District, and Dr. Bernadette Lucas, Chief Academic Officer of the Inglewood Unified School District—spoke about their experiences and challenges regarding student internet access. In a rural area like Williams, for example, families have difficulty accessing strong internet signals, whereas in more urban areas, families living in poverty may not be able to afford high-speed internet.
Thurmond and task force members will continue to meet and use the information and feedback gathered to create a formal plan for closing the digital divide, including timelines, budgetary considerations, and necessary legislative action steps.
Additional task force members include:
● Senator Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg)
● Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters)
● Assemblymember Autumn Burke (D-Inglewood)
● Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella)
● Assemblymember Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles)
● Assemblymember Jim Wood (D-Santa Rosa)