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Education

State educators tackle internet access, devices, in effort to narrow the 'digital divide'

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A report by Common Sense Media said 27% of students in New York State lack access to the internet. Lack of access to the internet cuts along racial lines, as well, as 45% of that group are Black, Latinx and Indigenous people.

New York State educators are trying to find ways to narrow the digital divide that remains in the state.

Allyson Knox is the Senior Director of Education Policy at Microsoft. She spoke to the State Education Department and the Board of Regents during a forum Monday morning addressing the problems associated with this divide.

“Are our state governments across the United States poised to be prepared- let’s say they all receive billions of dollars to address the digital equity issues,” she said. “Do they have a plan in place? Are they tracking digital skills over time? Do they have incumbent worker training funds in place?”

The Buffalo Public School District has tried to bridge the gap by giving students starting in kindergarten through senior year, devices for distance learning.

Buffalo Public Schools Chief Technology Officer Myra Burden said despite this success, the COVID-19 pandemic has put the district at a point of no return when it comes to sustaining internet access for its students.

“I do think the pandemic has exposed an issue that already existed in the space of the digital divide and it put a sense of urgency around it,” she said. “To make sure that we were intentional, or had to be intentional about addressing it and doing something about it.”

Burden said the district continues talks with Spectrum to provide internet access to the houses of students in need.

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