Two-thirds of California families say they need help getting their kids online

21 April 2020 by Steve Blum
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Jet school bus2

Some California students have access to the tools they need to keep up with lessons while locked down at home, but many, particularly those in low income households, don’t. That’s the finding of a survey of California parents conducted by the Education Trust West (h/t to Scott Lay at Around the Capitol for the pointer).

Kids don’t have the computers or tablets to do the word, and those who do can’t connect. Respondents said there are too few devices available in the home, only about third said that schools are providing take-home equipment to their kids. But connectivity is a major roadblock…

Lack of reliable internet access is another top barrier for families who feel less than confident that they will be able to participate in distance learning (29%). This issue is particularly common for families in the North of the state (47%), low-income families (38%), Hispanics in the Los Angeles suburbs (35%) and families located in the Los Angeles suburbs in general (34%). Two-thirds of parents (67%) say providing free internet access to families while schools are closed due to coronavirus would be very helpful for families like theirs, yet only 20% of parents report that their school district has made this available for students.

Some help is already supposed to be on the way, and more is in the pipeline. Google promised to donate 4,000 Chromebooks and 100,000 mobile network-enabled WiFi hotspots to California schools. The California department of education has the job of distributing such resources to the schools that need them the most, and has been surveying school districts and county education office to try to sort that out.

Another $5 million from the California Advanced Services Fund could be on the way next month. The California Public Utilities Commission is scheduled to vote on a proposal to, in effect, transfer the money to CDE to likewise be used to buy hotspots and Chromebook-class laptops, or similar devices.