With every single one of New York City’s 1.1 million public school students learning online partially or fully, the Department of Education estimates that there are still upwards of 77,000 students who still need internet-capable devices, despite repeated assurances from Mayor Bill de Blasio that “every student who needs one gets one.” Legislation Council Member Ben Kallos authored with Council Member Farah Louis and sponsored by Education Chair Mark Treyger, Borough Presidents Eric Adams and Gale Brewer, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and Council Member Stephen Levin, would force the city to give free laptops and tablets with Internet to all public school students and to report on the quantity, costs, distribution and demographics of students receiving devices.
Since the start of the pandemic in March and the transition to remote learning, parents and students have expressed their inability to access to high-speed internet and a lack of adequate remote learning devices, allowing for the exacerbation of racial disparities in student engagement with remote learning. In April, the Department of Education spent over $269 million on 300,000 iPads, equipped with T-Mobile LTE for $10 a mobile. The number of devices distributed, the number of students who received devices, and the number actually used, remain outstanding. Last month, the City Council even had to subpoena the Department of Education for remote attendance data.
The legislation would also mandate that devices come loaded with culturally responsive open digital textbooks. This comes on the heels of an opinion editorial that Ben wrote with Silicon Harlem’s Clayton Banks in which we proposed saving $84 million and rooting out racial injustice in the classroom by doing away with textbooks that too often perpetuate notions of white supremacy through a narrow focus on the achievements of white men.
As a Council Member Ben will fight to pass this into law, but if that doesn't happen by the time he becomes Borough President, Ben will buy every student who needs one a laptop on day one.