The Daily News on occasion has chided and even lambasted Texas lawmakers for the dismal state of school financing and public education in general, and on those occasions has been justified.
But something happened last week in Hitchcock that deserves attention and praise.
Representatives of the Texas Computer Education Association, Hitchcock ISD Superintendent Carla Vickroy and state Sen. Larry Taylor on Friday gathered to celebrate a $50,000 grant the district will use to buy 85 Chromebooks for lending to students in third through 12th grade.
Chromebooks are small, usually inexpensive laptop computers that use Google operating software, rather than the more common core programs made by Apple Inc., or Microsoft Corp.
“Our district is over 80 percent economically disadvantaged, and many of our students don’t have access to computers at home,” Vickroy said.
Taylor, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, co-authored legislation during the 85th legislative session that authorized the $10 million in tech lending grants. Since May, the state education agency had awarded grants to 148 of Texas’ 1,067 districts for the program. The La Marque Independent School District received $147,000 through the program.
For better or worse, technology has vastly changed how we learn and what we know. Access to computers and the internet has become increasingly important for people to learn about important economic, political and social aspects not just of America, but of the world, according to Stanford University, where researchers have studied the issue for years.
Yet, as advances in technology grow, so does what experts call the digital divide.
“The idea of the ‘digital divide’ refers to the growing gap between the underprivileged members of society, especially the poor, rural, elderly and handicapped portion of the population who do not have access to computers or the internet; and the wealthy, middle-class, and young Americans living in urban and suburban areas who have access,” according to Stanford University.
Education is meant to be the great equalizer, and technology is a crucial part of education today. Studies show access to technology in the classroom can greatly improve the quality of a student’s education.
But, almost 30 years after the debut of the World Wide Web, disparities in access remain. It’s difficult for some people to fathom life without constant access to the internet and computers, but that’s the reality for many Americans.
“Roughly 3-in-10 adults with household incomes below $30,000 a year don’t own a smartphone,” according to a 2017 report by Pew Research Center. “Nearly half don’t have home broadband services or a traditional computer. And a majority of lower-income Americans are not tablet owners. By comparison, many of these devices are nearly ubiquitous among adults from households earning $100,000 or more a year.”
Taylor is working to obtain federal funds to provide broadband connection for every school district in the state, but access at home is equally as important, he said.
We’re encouraged that Taylor and other state lawmakers haven’t forgotten the importance of public education.
“If you give economically disadvantaged kids a good education, you’ve changed an entire family tree for the future,” Taylor said.
• Laura Elder