Houston-area lawmakers work to close digital divide for students

Houston ISD tells us more than 11,000 students hadn't logged on to virtual classes as of Tuesday.

Some lawmakers announced a new initiative Thursday to get students the computers they need and close the digital divide.

Earlier this summer, the nonprofit Common Sense found 34% of public school students in Texas didn't have internet access and 25% didn't have a computer.  That digital divide impacts low income, minority children the most.

"As you can see, the computers that are behind me are all computers donated by DARE that we'll be giving to all of our districts," said Representative Jarvis Johnson (D - Houston).


Securing a donation of more than 500 computers from DARE America for Houston area school districts, Johnson and the Texas Legislative Black Caucus are working to close the digital divide.

"There's been an awakening. The COVID-19 pandemic, as has been stated earlier, has highlighted those disparities that exist between the haves and have nots. We know that many of those children on the not side are children of color."

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"If we're going to give our students access to the jobs and careers of today and the future, the first thing we have to do is provide a level playing field," said Dr. Robert Bostic, Superintendent of Stafford Municipal School District.

Texas spent $250 million in federal, state, and local funding to buy 716,000 laptops and 295,000 hot spots for students across the state, but it still wan't enough. So Johnson and the Caucus asked DARE America to help fill the gap.

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Tuesday, Houston ISD reported 11,125 students hadn't logged on yet. But interim Superintendent Dr. Granita Lathan says the district expects to soon have all the computers it needs.

"We are working diligently at HISD to make sure every child that needs a device gets a device.  This week, we are deploying 14,832 devices. By next Friday, we'll deploy the last 9800 devices," said Dr. Lathan.


Aldine Superintendent Dr. LaTonya Goffney said Thursday’s donation will help shore up Aldine ISD.

"Every single student needs access to technology, whether we're in a pandemic or not in a pandemic. And we're so thankful we're going to be able to move toward that goal," said Dr. Goffney.