Districts Need To Set Up Wi-Fi for Students in Public Housing

Students who live in poverty are among the most at-risk students in the public school system. There is extensive research to show that students from low-income families struggle more with behavior and academics for a wide variety of reasons related to poverty. Often, this means that students who come from poverty are left behind in the classroom.

Many students whose families live below the poverty line also don’t have internet access at home. This creates all kinds of problems as well. Students who have access to the internet can go home and get online to work on homework, do research, or just learn about something they’re interested in for fun. Students without the internet may struggle with completing assignments, or feel stuck when they can’t get easy homework help.

As more and more teachers give homework assignments that require internet access, the problems created by the digital divide get bigger. When students are expected to use the internet just to complete their assignments, those students who can’t get online inevitably get left behind.

So what can school districts do to help students whose families can’t afford internet access? One solution is to provide Wi-Fi for these families, free of charge. This sounds ambitious and expensive, but it may be one of the best methods educators have to fight the cycle of poverty.

We already know that there are millions of families with school-age children who don’t have internet access. Almost all of these families lack internet access because they can’t afford it. Additionally, we know that this creates problems for students in school. So why not eliminate these problems completely by simply providing internet access to needy families?

An easy way to target the families who are most likely to be unable to afford internet access would be to give free Wi-Fi to students in public housing. Public housing developments are home to families that live below the poverty line. The government provides assistance with housing for these residents, who must meet certain income requirements.

Providing Wi-Fi to students in public housing is an easy first step for districts looking to close the digital divide. Public housing developments contain a large concentration of low-income students and families, and setting up the infrastructure needed for free internet access would be easiest here.

The benefits of providing free Wi-Fi to students are numerous. Students would be able to complete homework and research on their own time. They would also be able to build crucial digital literacy skills that their peers with easy access to Wi-Fi already have.

Though it may still sound far-fetched, consider the number of school districts successfully implementing similar programs. Kent School District in Kent, WA built kiosks that provide free Wi-Fi for students in public housing, and they’ve had success with students using the kiosks. Families are using the Wi-Fi to check students’ grades and stay in touch with schools, and students are using it to do homework.

Other school districts have tried similar approaches. In California, Coachella Valley Unified School District has put free Wi-Fi on school buses. Students can get online during the ride to or from school. The buses are also parked in trailer parks where many families don’t have internet access. The program has been a huge success, and it’s given internet access to students who need it most.

As internet access becomes more important to students, it’s crucial that districts take the steps necessary to ensure all students can get online. For school districts where students can’t afford Wi-Fi at home, providing it free to those families who need it most may be the only solution that ensures all students have equal access.

Do you think districts should provide Wi-Fi for students in public housing? Let us know what you think schools should be doing to close the digital divide.

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