Texas State Teachers Association says ‘digital divide’ in state worse than country as a whole

TSTA believes state can overcome access issues with additional funding

Broward County children head back to school for virtual learning

SAN ANTONIO – Overall digital access for students in Texas is worse than in the country as a whole, but can be corrected with additional funding, according to a study by the Texas State Teachers Association.

As the state moves largely to remote learning models during the COVID-19 pandemic, the biggest victims of the divide are low-income, rural and minority students, the study said.

Ovidia Molina, the association’s president, said that state and federal agencies can overcome the divide if they significantly increase funding.

“The Texas State Teachers Association supports virtual learning as a safe way to provide learning opportunities to Texas children while protecting them, their teachers and their families from the dangerous coronavirus,” Molina said in a release. “But our state and federal governments must significantly increase funding for this effort so that all students, regardless of family income, race, ethnicity or home address, have access to the tools they need.”

The association said Public Policy Associates Inc. utilized data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and determined that Texas ranked 46th among the states in overall internet and computer access, 45th in broadband access and 45th in access to both broadband and computers.

Other findings from the study include:

  • Students whose families are below the poverty line are much less likely (43%) than their middle- and upper-income peers (74%) to have both computers and broadband access at home.
  • White students (78%) have greater access to both broadband and computers than Blacks (63%) or Hispanics (59%). The gap between Hispanic and white students in Texas is larger than in the country as a whole.
  • Only 70% of all school-aged children in Texas have access at home to what can be considered high-speed internet access.
  • 33% of students lack either a computer or broadband access.
  • 70% of households with school-aged children in Texas metropolitan areas have access to broadband and computers, but only 50% of similar households in non-metro areas do.

“In many rural areas, Texans are not able to get high-speed internet access even if they are willing and able to pay for it,” the organization said.

According to the PPA, the digital deficit for some groups could be even worse than what the study indicates as the American Community Survey, which is what the study was based on, collected data on household access to computers and not necessarily how many or what kind are available.

Molina said with the limited digital access based on the study’s findings, it’s another reason Gov. Greg Abbott should call off STAAR testing this year.

“This is another reason Gov. Abbott must act now to call off STAAR testing this year. That will reduce student and educator stress and provide additional resources for computers and internet access for students in need. How can the state expect students to properly prepare for STAAR when many don’t even have the appropriate remote learning tools that will be necessary for much of this school year?”

About the Author:

Jakob Rodriguez is a digital journalist at KSAT 12. He's a graduate of Texas State University, where he served as the editor-in-chief of the student-run newspaper, The University Star.