New Jersey public charter school leaders released statements earlier this week on the first phase of President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan, which includes initiatives that address educational inequities. The plan will include billions of dollars in funding to upgrade school facilities, support high-quality career and technical education, and expand broadband internet access, welcomed by traditional and alternative public schools alike. The leaders below believe universal broadband, as outlined by President Biden, could deliver important changes in how schools approach teaching and learning. Children everywhere would be able to access their classroom learning materials, participate in virtual field trips, and more in a way they haven’t ever in history.
Here are comments from Dr. Gloria Bonilla-Santiago, Chair of Camden’s LEAP Academy University Charter School, Nihat Guvercin, CEO of iLearn Schools (in Paterson, Passaic, Bergen, and Hudson County), Graig Weiss, CEO of Trenton’s Foundation Academies and Robert Clark, CEO of Newark Opportunity Youth Network.
“This plan is a game-changer for public education across America. It’s not just about giving children access to broadband. It’s about the educational doors it unlocks that could reverberate and truly transform teaching and learning as we know it. For too long, the digital divide has been an impediment to truly integrating online learning tools into classroom learning. That would change because of this President and this White House, and millions of kids across the country would benefit.
No one should have to choose between broadband and putting food on the table. Access to the internet should be a fundamental right. With this potentially historic investment in educational infrastructure, we truly are looking at a new playbook not just in terms of the quality of classrooms or school facilities. We’re looking at really changing pedagogy. Universal broadband opens up new possibilities and learning experiences for teachers to utilize in their curricula, and for students, they would be able to access course material anytime and any place. That’s why we can’t just view this plan as a jobs creation program or an equity effort. We need to look at it as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reinvent public education in America.
While New Jersey has made aggressive and important strides in closing the digital divide during the pandemic, America continues to have an equity problem. This proposal by President Biden can be an antidote to one of our persistent challenges. Making sure that every child has access to the internet is critical because it doesn’t just allow students to be exposed to new experiences and learning opportunities – it can also help educators across America innovate and personalize learning in a way they’ve never been able to because of the digital divide. This could truly be one important and long overdue step towards addressing the systemic inequities of our country’s educational system.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted long-standing inequities, and we cannot just return to the status quo,” said Robert Clark, Chief Executive Officer of Newark Opportunity Youth Network. “President Biden’s American Jobs Plan will put us on the path to tackling these inequities, particularly in closing the digital divide so that we can continue to reach our students and provide them with the best education possible.