All over the world, people are adapting to the new restrictions and limitations placed upon us by COVID-19. Social distancing is providing new challenges to actions in our daily lives, with school, work, doctor’s appointments, and even grocery shopping being drastically altered to address the concerns of novel coronavirus. However, in the midst of these changes, it is important to analyze how such changes are leaving some people behind.
As a response to COVID-19, thousands of American schools have moved remote for the rest of the academic year, making it essential that students be able to access high-speed internet and devices that can connect to their teachers, counselors, and school administration. As lessons are moving online, many teachers are moving to platforms like Google Classroom or Zoom to conduct virtual class time. However, many low income families don’t have the means to provide the resources necessary to participate in these online meetings. According to Pew Research, one in five students don't have access to reliable internet or a computer.
And while many other school districts are contacting students and parents to inquire about their internet situation at home, it shouldn’t take a global pandemic for the education system to realize they shouldn’t leave low income students behind. Many classes assign virtual homework throughout the year on sites like Google Classroom. Students that don’t have reliable internet service at home have traditionally been told to use the computers at the local library, a method which now ignores any family obligations the student has or the safety of getting to and from the library. Without the ability to go to the library, they have no other available option to complete that homework assignment.
Families shouldn’t have to be forced to go into debt purchasing reliable internet access for their students to attend school. In the 21st century, the internet is no longer a luxury, it is a necessity. In December, Senator Bernie Sanders stated that high speed internet “must be treated as the new electricity — a public utility that everyone deserves as a basic human right.” Public education should not be privatized and monetized by internet providers and it shouldn’t have taken a global pandemic for us to begin the dialogue.