A new report by Human Rights Watch reveals that the COVID-19 pandemic increased the education gap and stalled the progress made leading up to April 2020.
According to the report, there was slow, but steady progress made to close the global education gap, but 1.4 billion students were shut out of pre-primary, primary and secondary schools in 190 countries.
Between April 2020 and April 2021, HRW interviewed more than 470 students, parents, and teachers in 60 countries for the report. They found that for millions of students, school closure will be permanent since they’ll age out of “free or compulsory education.”
Some of this can be attributed to pre-COVID inequality. Children living in poverty, being disabled, an ethnic minority, a part of the LGBTQ community and living in rural areas where they were already discriminated against. The lack of action by country, state and local governments put these populations at high risk before the pandemic began. So when it came to purchasing products for remote learning, it was a nonstarter for some.
In the report, a Nigerian mother with seven kids said she can barely afford the basics after losing her cleaning job after the local university shut down for the pandemic. She told HRW that she wouldn’t be able to afford what’s needed for remote learning.
“I don’t have money to feed my family and I am struggling to make ends meet. How can I afford a phone and internet?” she said.
Similar issues have arisen in New York City’s public education system. The AmNews has gone back and forth with the Department of Education regarding tablet distribution to low-income students and how a student’s surroundings affects their remote learning process.
When asked about the safety of using a tablet and controlling where a student can go while online, the DOE said to the AmNews that it has “strict safety policies in place” to create the “highest quality digital learning environment” while protecting students. DOE officials said that the distributed iPads are in compliance with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), which went into effect two decades ago and helps filter tech that prevents students from checking out inappropriate content.
But the gap in education remains the hot button topic in New York state.
The Education Trust-New York, an organization whose mission it is to close the education gap in the state, launched a data tool (available at nyschoolfunding.org) that allows users to see how schools and districts allocate their resources. It shows whether or not the districts containing low-income, disabled and ESL students are getting the funding needed to catch up with the rest of the district, county and state.
The organization also released an advocacy tip sheet (EdTrustNY.org/MySchoolFunding) to help parents discuss with school leaders plans for how to distribute funding. Ed Trust-NY also released an advocacy tip sheet to help parents engage with local school leaders as districts develop plans for spending the new state and federal funding.
“Even prior to the pandemic, large urban school districts across New York State were failing to make a significantly greater investment in the schools serving students with the greatest needs,” said EdTrust-NY Executive Director Dia Bryant, in a statement. “Equal is not the same as equitable, and this new infusion of state and federal resources should contribute to narrowing the divide between schools who have and those who have not. School districts should prioritize investments in the schools and students who need the greatest support both academically and social emotionally.
“This is especially critical as schools seek to reopen equitably after over a year with inconsistent services because of the pandemic.”
According to the revelations from EdTrust-NY’s data tool, for every $100 per student invested by the DOE in its lowest-need elementary/middle schools where the share of low-income students stands at 43%, they are budgeting $19 on average per student more in their highest-need schools where the share of low-income students stands at 95%. When it comes to high school, for every $100 per student invested by the DOE in its lowest-need high schools where the share of low-income students is 60%, they are budgeting $27 per student more in their highest-need schools where the share of low-income students is 92%.
Areas like Albany, Syracuse and Yonkers don’t have enough high schools to warrant an analysis.
The Institute of Education Sciences, which is connected to the U.S. Department of Education, accumulated stats for each state detailing the percentage of schools and districts that offered remote, hybrid and in-person learning. Everything showed up as “Insufficient Data.”
The DOE told the AmNews that they’ll release a digital snapshot of demographic data soon.