From the moment schools shut down at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it became clear that many districts were ill-equipped to support their students from afar. They just weren’t ready for distance learning, and a big part of that was that too many students lacked adequate WiFi access to get to virtual class.
Cases like 2020’s Cayla J. v. California Department of Education, which charges that schools in the state are violating the constitutional rights of children of color by not providing adequate distance education, called out state Departments of Education for failing to provide better WiFi options than visiting a local Taco Bell.
It’s time for states to step up and realize that proper technology and WiFi connectivity are a must-have in public school districts, and that state policy is dangerously lagging behind. And while systems might not continue to operate as 100 percent virtual schools in a post-COVID world, better access to learning technology is no longer negotiable in this increasingly-digital world.
Ideally, hybrid schooling models can offer significant opportunities for personalizing learning, from special education students to students in rural areas who don’t have adequate wireless connectivity at home. To better understand the issues and tactics for improvement, let’s review current state laws for provisioning technology and WiFi access, exame how they are falling short, and propose policy changes to better support K-12 distance learning.
Overview of Tech and WiFi Provisioning Laws
From state to state, laws vary in how they currently address (or don’t address) distance and hybrid learning resource needs—and no two sets of laws are alike.