The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has reported that over 15,000 students have not been heard from since the March 16 closure of schools due to coronavirus concerns. An estimated 40,000 additional students fail to check-in daily.

Even as LAUSD leaders have been working diligently to accommodate the needs of teachers and students as it transitions to an all-digital distance learning format – student access to technology and understanding its use remains an issue.

A majority of the 560,000 students enrolled in LAUSD are from low-income families with limited access to computers, wireless technology and the internet. My district is home to the largest amount of LAUSD schools with 170.

This lack of access can be detrimental to the ability of a student to stay current with homework and assignments forcing them to play catch up when school resumes, or worse, experience exponential learning loss.

Technology can be a great equalizer, but without a proper understanding of its application, or lack of it entirely, students will fall behind without assistance. This includes training and encouragement for parents of LAUSD students to make them part of the equation and solution.

Earlier this year, I worked on and voted for a funding package that provided $100 million to schools statewide to address COVID-19 related issues. This includes a large portion of these funds flowing to the 170 LAUSD schools in the 59th Assembly District that I represent.

California is expected to receive 10% ($2.5 billion) of the approximately $25 billion for K-12 and higher education funding from the recent federal stimulus package. These dollars are earmarked for nutrition programs, distance learning technology, supplies and other district operation costs brought on by COVID-19.

As a community we must make learning and academics a priority. As an elected official it is my focus to ensure all students have access to an equitable world-class public education.

When it comes to discovering a cure for the coronavirus, scientists are leading the charge. Fixing and solving the matter of the digital divide in our public schools is in the hands of policy makers and educators – and I plan to do my part by fighting for targeted funding that provides access to wi-fi, computers and remote learning.

We must bridge this digital gap so every student has the resources and tools to excel academically.

Parents and guardians should reach out to school principals and administrators to obtain these devices along with free educational tablets. Questions regarding at-home learning programs should be directed to the LASUD Parent Hotline at (213) 443-1300 or by contacting my office at (213) 744-2111.

About Assemblymember Jones-Sawyer

Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer, Sr. was first elected in 2012 to represent the constituents of California’s 59th Assembly District (So. LA area) in the State Legislature. Chair of the Public Safety Committee, Assemblymember Jones-Sawyer is a fierce proponent of second-chances and fairness within the law.

A champion of minority, social justice and civil rights causes, the Assemblyman Jones-Sawyer has authored and had legislation signed into law related to ending discrimination in housing, providing mental health grants and supportive services to schools and expanding opportunities and growth to small and start-up business.