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Advocates Say Virtual Learning Widens Education Gaps

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Mondi Kumbula-Fraser

Even before the pandemic set in, educators and advocates had pointed to gaps in education for Black, brown and low income students.

And now those gaps have only widened with the move to virtual learning, advocates told a legislative committee Thursday.
The numbers were sobering. More than half of Maryland’s students are black and Latino and yet far fewer of them are prepared for success compared to their white peers, Alison Socol, of the Education Trust told the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Education.

Black and Latino students are much less likely than white students to enroll in college within a year of graduation from high school, and nearly 200,000 Maryland homes lack internet access, many of them Black, Latino, rural and poor.

Mondi Kumbula-Fraser, of the Black and Brown Coalition for Educational Equity and Excellence, told the committee that even homes with internet access don’t have enough devices to go around.

“And if that’s the case,” she said, “then you are making a decision every day as to which child is going to get educated that day.”

Socol said schools are going to have to do more to close those gaps.

“We’re going to need schools and districts to do much more than ever before to make sure that students feel welcome and supported and engaged so they make the decision every day to log on,” she said.

She said that means the state should partner with businesses and internet providers to be sure every student has a laptop and provide grants to poorer districts to expand internet access.

Joel McCord is a trumpet player who learned early in life that that’s no way to make a living.
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