New Analysis Shows Students of Color Far More Likely to Be Cut off from Online Learning

Jul 21, 2020

Alliance for excellent education logo  

Press Contacts:
All4Ed: Dorie Turner Nolt, [email protected], 404-861-1127
National Indian Education Association: Geneva Horsechief Hamilton, [email protected]
National Urban League: Teresa Candori, [email protected]
UnidosUS: Gabriela Gomez, [email protected]

Washington, D.C.—As schools across the country prepare for a blend of online and in-person learning in the fall, a new analysis shows that 1 in 3 Black, Latino and American Indian/Alaska Native students do not have high-speed home internet access and are more likely than their White peers to be disconnected from online learning, known as the homework gap. The analysis includes an interactive map with state-by-state disparity data.

The analysis—done in partnership by the Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed), the National Indian Education Association, the National Urban League and UnidosUS—shows that nearly 17 million students nationally do not have the high-speed internet access needed to fully participate in online learning from home. This figure is millions more than what was previously reported for the homework gap because those analyses include students who may have access to just a mobile device, which research shows is largely ineffective for completing digital assignments and participating in online classes. What’s more, the new figure for the homework gap is likely an undercount, given that millions of Americans are out of work or experiencing pay cuts as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic this year.

The report calls on Congress to pass the Emergency Education Connections Act and provide $6.8 billion through the E-rate program in the next COVID-19 relief package.

“Asking students—many of whom are from low-income or rural homes—to try to learn with a family member’s cell phone or with paper packets is neither acceptable nor sustainable. We need Congress to demonstrate their concern for all students’ learning by providing $6.8 billion in critical funding in the next stimulus legislation for internet and computer access for all students, no matter where they live,” said All4Ed president and CEO Deborah Delisle. “The federal government has an historic opportunity to ensure millions of students get what they need to be successful this fall and beyond. What we offer to our students tells them what it is we value. This is our time to show we care.”

“For far too long, limited broadband access in Native communities has hampered efforts to provide effective culture-based virtual education options for Native students. Due to lack of internet access at home, schools serving students on and near tribal lands have struggled to implement virtual education options during the novel coronavirus outbreak,” said NIEA Executive Director Diana Cournoyer. “This threatens to have long-term impacts on Native students, and it is the duty of the federal government to uphold its treaty and trust responsibilities, including those for equity and sovereignty in education, to Native nations.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the homework gap, particularly for Black, Latino and American Indian students. Congress must do all that it can to close opportunity gaps in education and eliminate barriers that keep students of color and other vulnerable children from accessing the resources they need to succeed,” said National Urban League President and CEO Marc Morial. “We are pleased to join the Alliance for Excellent Education in ensuring that those in leadership understand the full extent of these racial disparities and invest in students, schools, and communities with the greatest needs.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the impact of the digital divide on the academic progress of our students, particularly from low-income, Black, Latino, and American Indian households. Roadblocks, including internet connectivity and access to a computer or tablet, have denied students of color the opportunity to meaningfully engage in online learning, resulting in learning loss and widening achievement gaps,” said UnidosUS President and CEO Janet Murguía. “We cannot continue to overlook the disproportionate impact of this divide, especially as the new school year approaches and with the likelihood that virtual learning will continue in some form. The success of students who lack essential tools for virtual learning depends on robust federal funding to close the digital divide.”

The analysis finds that 16.9 million children age 17 or younger in 8.4 million households have no wireline internet subscription, or internet service such as cable, fiber, or digital subscriber line (DSL). And 7.3 million children in 3.6 million households have no access to a laptop, desktop or tablet computer.

The new report analyzes data from the 2018 American Community Survey on households with children age 17 or younger. It finds that access is much more limited for families that are low-income, rural, American Indian/Alaska Native, Black, or Latino, compared to more affluent White families—where only about 21 percent are without high-speed home internet access and 8 percent have no home computer (laptop, desktop or tablet):

  • 34 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native households have no high-speed internet access at home, and almost 16 percent with no computer;
  • 36 percent of Americans living in rural areas of the United States lack high-speed home internet and 14 percent don’t have a computer;
  • 31 percent of Latino families do not have high-speed home internet, and 17 percent don’t have a computer;
  • nearly 31 percent of Black households are without high-speed home internet and 17 percent have no computer; and
  • 44.5 percent of households making less than $25,000 annually have no high-speed home internet, and nearly 29 percent don’t have a computer.Members of Congress who are sponsoring legislation to address this issue weighed in, along with a member of the Federal Communications Commission, which oversees the E-rate program.

“I commend the Alliance for Excellent Education, National Urban League, National Indian Education Association, and UnidosUS for unveiling a timely report on the homework gap and what is required to ensure all kids have internet access during this unprecedented health crisis. The statistics are sobering,” said U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY), who introduced the Emergency Education Connections Act in the House of Representatives. “Nearly 17 million kids do not have the tools to continue their studies at home. Over 20 percent of households in New York lack high-speed internet access at home. Unless Congress intervenes, millions of kids’ futures are at risk. I recognize the grave challenge students and educators face in our nation and I’m fighting to get funding to ensure all kids can continue their studies from the safety of their homes.”

Today’s report is a timely reminder about why Congress must take immediate action to bridge the homework gap in our next coronavirus relief package,” said U.S. Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass), who sponsored the Emergency Education Connections Act in the Senate. “As this important report highlights, nearly 17 million students lack the broadband connectivity they need to continue their education online during this crisis, with the children of low-income families, rural areas, and communities of color at a disproportionate risk of being left behind. In order to prevent the homework gap from becoming an ever larger learning gap, Congress must include my Emergency Educational Connections Act in the next COVID relief bill to allocate at least $4 billion through the E-Rate program to provide internet service and devices to our most vulnerable children.”

“The homework gap is the cruelest part of the digital divide. Today’s study demonstrates just how devastating this problem is–affecting 16.9 million students nationwide with a disproportionate impact on students of color, students in low income households, and those living in rural areas,” said FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. “This should be a clarion call for policymakers at all levels that bold action is required. It’s time to rise to this challenge because no student should be left offline.”

For more on the homework gap, including an interactive map with state-by-state data, go to all4ed.org/homeworkgap.

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The Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed) is a Washington, DC–based national policy, practice, and advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring that all students, particularly those underperforming and those historically underserved, graduate from high school ready for success in college, work, and citizenship. All4ed.org
The National Indian Education Association (NIEA) advances comprehensive educational opportunities for all Native students. Serving as the critical link between Native communities and the diverse array of institutions that serve our students, NIEA holds all accountable for improving achievement. Through advocacy, capacity-building, and education, NIEA supports Native students and their communities to succeed. NIEA.org

The National Urban League is a historic civil rights organization dedicated to economic empowerment in order to elevate the standard of living in historically underserved urban communities. The National Urban League spearheads the efforts of its 90 local affiliates through the development of programs, public policy research and advocacy, providing direct services that impact and improve the lives of more than 2 million people annually nationwide. Visit nul.org and follow us on Twitter and Instagram: @NatUrbanLeague.

UnidosUS, previously known as NCLR (National Council of La Raza), is the nation’s largest Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization. Through its unique combination of expert research, advocacy, programs, and an Affiliate Network of nearly 300 community-based organizations across the United States and Puerto Rico, UnidosUS simultaneously challenges the social, economic, and political barriers that affect Latinos at the national and local levels. For more than 50 years, UnidosUS has united communities and different groups seeking common ground through collaboration, and that share a desire to make our country stronger. For more information on UnidosUS, visit unidosus.org or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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