Sign the Letter to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE)
The COVID-19 pandemic has left an undeniable mark with long-lasting effects on the Latino community in Massachusetts. As a result, Latino educators and multi-sector leaders across the Commonwealth are coming together to share about the issues and resources that will help support the education and well-being of our Latino community.
We are launching a campaign to ensure that every Latino child receives a high quality education in Massachusetts. Our first action will be to request equitable access to technology to ensure that every household can address the social determinants of health and education for their family. Additionally, we are requesting that the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) mandate that all districts collect and publicly report data on access to technology, and that the data be disaggregated by race. This critical data will allow all stakeholders to have a complete understanding of where intervention and additional resources are necessary to support equitable student learning.
We invite you to join us by signing on to this letter that we will send to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Additionally, we will continue to share updates on this campaign, including critical next steps. A copy of the letter is below.
Letter to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE): Provide Latino Communities with Equitable Access to Technology
Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education, Jeffrey C Riley
Business address: 75 Pleasant Street, Malden, MA 02148
Telephone: (781) 338-3131
Fax: (781) 338-3770
We, the undersigned multi-sector leaders and Latino educators respectfully write to you to urge DESE to work with the legislature and local districts to deploy adequate resources that will ensure that Latino students and families have equitable access to technology. Additionally, we request that DESE mandate that all districts collect and publicly report data on access to technology, that the data be disaggregated by race and include information on technology backlogs that are being experienced at this time. This data will be a critical first step to ensure an equitable access to education structure during COVID-19 and beyond. Furthermore, access to this data will give stakeholders a complete understanding of where intervention and additional resources are necessary to support student learning.
Our understanding of the inequities and systemic barriers during COVID is grounded in the lived experience of Latinos from across Massachusetts, which you can see in the report published by Latinos for Education, LATINO EDUCATION IN THE TIME OF COVID: The Pandemic’s Unique Impact on Latino Students and Families in Massachusetts and the virtual conversations hosted by the PEAS Collaborative.
We are unsurprised by the daunting challenges that Latino families and students are facing right now. Forty-six percent of Latino families expressed rightful concern that their children are disproportionately impacted by the learning loss that has occurred since March. Equally as troubling, many of the families shared they were experiencing inequitable access to basic needs such as income, housing and food as a major barrier to student learning. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the many afflictions our most vulnerable families and students already had to endure.
Regardless of the model that school districts use in order to re-open, we believe in ensuring that all families and students have universal access to technology, connectivity, IT support and training as a basic need. For Latino families in particular, we believe this is a first step to mitigating some of the worst impacts of COVID-19. Access to a device per student and connectivity means that every Latino household would be able to address the social determinants of health and education for their family.
If as a Commonwealth we wish to address the concerns of Latino parents, 43% of which reported a decline in their child’s mental health, then devices/connectivity become critical access points to the types of social and emotional supports students and families need. Most of the hospital, behavior health providers and healthcare systems are providing services almost exclusively via telehealth. Major programs such as fuel assistance, rental vouchers, Mass Health, food stamps and unemployment insurance are also best accessed online. The digital divide prior to COVID already made access to information, and resources a challenge. Our Latino children cannot thrive if we do not act now to close the digital divide. Your swift action will allow local communities that serve our most vulnerable students to act with the urgency that this pandemic requires.
We can appreciate the massive undertaking of the state and districts in dealing with the impact of the pandemic on the education system. However, we must make sure that through this, technology access and support to families and students does not create an even wider divide across racial and ethnic lines.
SIGN THE LETTER TO DESE: Provide Latino Communities with Equitable Access to Technology