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Texas Education Commissioner Says State Has Closed Digital Divide Through Access to Computers

Derek Shumway

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Photo of Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath by Les Hassell of the News-Messenger

February 23, 2021 – Texas education commissioner Mike Morath declared in January that the state “basically completely closed” the digital divide in students’ access to take-home computers.

This was largely due to the massive state and local purchases amid the pandemic. Texas’ public school districts spent roughly $1 billion during the last year on computers and wireless internet hotspots. A large portion of the cost was paid for with one-time federal stimulus funds.

“It’s pretty remarkable when we’ve talked about the digital divide for the better part of 20 years in the country, and we will have effectively bridged it with computing devices at the scale of Texas,” said Morath.

The concern now is how the public schools will have the means to maintain and replace computers and equipment as it ages and experiences wear-and-tear by students. While the school districts spent $1 billion last year, it may not be able to spend $1 billion every year going forward.

Leaders in education and advocates are in the early stages of mapping out long-term plans that can pay for students’ technology needs. Lawmakers have a short period of time to propose new and continued funding for computer purchases. Many school districts aim to refresh their computes every four or five years as the devices age and software changes.

“There are definitely some conversations that are being had here at the district level on what does that begin to look like,” said Scott Gilhousen, Houston school district chief technology information officer, whose district bought nearly 110,000 computers this last year.

Before the federal aid was a significant source of paying for the computers and hot spots, school districts depended on their own revenues. This reduced the funds available for other instruction needs, as well as bond revenues and nonprofit support.

Texas education leaders could tap those sources again. But without new pledges of additional state or federal support, it will cost significantly more.

Speaking about the future of funding to keep the digital divide closed, Gilhousen said: “I’m very optimistic. When you start to look at the importance of digital connection across the nation, everybody understands that now.”

Education

Labor Department Official Addresses Apprenticeships at Wireless Infrastructure Event

Benjamin Kahn

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on

February 23, 2021 – Texas education commissioner Mike Morath declared in January that the state “basically completely closed” the digital divide in students’ access to take-home computers.

This was largely due to the massive state and local purchases amid the pandemic. Texas’ public school districts spent roughly $1 billion during the last year on computers and wireless internet hotspots. A large portion of the cost was paid for with one-time federal stimulus funds.

“It’s pretty remarkable when we’ve talked about the digital divide for the better part of 20 years in the country, and we will have effectively bridged it with computing devices at the scale of Texas,” said Morath.

The concern now is how the public schools will have the means to maintain and replace computers and equipment as it ages and experiences wear-and-tear by students. While the school districts spent $1 billion last year, it may not be able to spend $1 billion every year going forward.

Leaders in education and advocates are in the early stages of mapping out long-term plans that can pay for students’ technology needs. Lawmakers have a short period of time to propose new and continued funding for computer purchases. Many school districts aim to refresh their computes every four or five years as the devices age and software changes.

“There are definitely some conversations that are being had here at the district level on what does that begin to look like,” said Scott Gilhousen, Houston school district chief technology information officer, whose district bought nearly 110,000 computers this last year.

Before the federal aid was a significant source of paying for the computers and hot spots, school districts depended on their own revenues. This reduced the funds available for other instruction needs, as well as bond revenues and nonprofit support.

Texas education leaders could tap those sources again. But without new pledges of additional state or federal support, it will cost significantly more.

Speaking about the future of funding to keep the digital divide closed, Gilhousen said: “I’m very optimistic. When you start to look at the importance of digital connection across the nation, everybody understands that now.”

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Education

Datacasting Helping Bridge Education Gap Where Broadband Is Limited

Benjamin Kahn

Published

on

Screenshot from the webinar

February 23, 2021 – Texas education commissioner Mike Morath declared in January that the state “basically completely closed” the digital divide in students’ access to take-home computers.

This was largely due to the massive state and local purchases amid the pandemic. Texas’ public school districts spent roughly $1 billion during the last year on computers and wireless internet hotspots. A large portion of the cost was paid for with one-time federal stimulus funds.

“It’s pretty remarkable when we’ve talked about the digital divide for the better part of 20 years in the country, and we will have effectively bridged it with computing devices at the scale of Texas,” said Morath.

The concern now is how the public schools will have the means to maintain and replace computers and equipment as it ages and experiences wear-and-tear by students. While the school districts spent $1 billion last year, it may not be able to spend $1 billion every year going forward.

Leaders in education and advocates are in the early stages of mapping out long-term plans that can pay for students’ technology needs. Lawmakers have a short period of time to propose new and continued funding for computer purchases. Many school districts aim to refresh their computes every four or five years as the devices age and software changes.

“There are definitely some conversations that are being had here at the district level on what does that begin to look like,” said Scott Gilhousen, Houston school district chief technology information officer, whose district bought nearly 110,000 computers this last year.

Before the federal aid was a significant source of paying for the computers and hot spots, school districts depended on their own revenues. This reduced the funds available for other instruction needs, as well as bond revenues and nonprofit support.

Texas education leaders could tap those sources again. But without new pledges of additional state or federal support, it will cost significantly more.

Speaking about the future of funding to keep the digital divide closed, Gilhousen said: “I’m very optimistic. When you start to look at the importance of digital connection across the nation, everybody understands that now.”

Continue Reading

Education

Privacy Concerns Increase With Ed Technology Boom, Says Acting Chair of Federal Trade Commission

Derek Shumway

Published

on

February 23, 2021 – Texas education commissioner Mike Morath declared in January that the state “basically completely closed” the digital divide in students’ access to take-home computers.

This was largely due to the massive state and local purchases amid the pandemic. Texas’ public school districts spent roughly $1 billion during the last year on computers and wireless internet hotspots. A large portion of the cost was paid for with one-time federal stimulus funds.

“It’s pretty remarkable when we’ve talked about the digital divide for the better part of 20 years in the country, and we will have effectively bridged it with computing devices at the scale of Texas,” said Morath.

The concern now is how the public schools will have the means to maintain and replace computers and equipment as it ages and experiences wear-and-tear by students. While the school districts spent $1 billion last year, it may not be able to spend $1 billion every year going forward.

Leaders in education and advocates are in the early stages of mapping out long-term plans that can pay for students’ technology needs. Lawmakers have a short period of time to propose new and continued funding for computer purchases. Many school districts aim to refresh their computes every four or five years as the devices age and software changes.

“There are definitely some conversations that are being had here at the district level on what does that begin to look like,” said Scott Gilhousen, Houston school district chief technology information officer, whose district bought nearly 110,000 computers this last year.

Before the federal aid was a significant source of paying for the computers and hot spots, school districts depended on their own revenues. This reduced the funds available for other instruction needs, as well as bond revenues and nonprofit support.

Texas education leaders could tap those sources again. But without new pledges of additional state or federal support, it will cost significantly more.

Speaking about the future of funding to keep the digital divide closed, Gilhousen said: “I’m very optimistic. When you start to look at the importance of digital connection across the nation, everybody understands that now.”

Continue Reading

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