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'Digital Divide' Causes Frustrations For Some MN Families Navigating Distance Learning

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Frustration is growing for some parents as they try to navigate the world of distance learning.

For some, the digital divide is keeping their kids from accessing the tools needed to complete their assignments at home.

"I let them know I haven't gotten a device yet they told me to fill out the survey I had already filled out the survey online so I went and did another survey," mother Lashanna Bills said.

Bills has been trying for weeks to get her son, who is a freshman, some sort of device from the district so he can do his school work. But she hasn't received a response yet.

"He's been checking into classes making sure he's getting his attendance taken and he is trying to complete something on his phone," Bill said.

Bills and others parents say there is a trend in low income areas where students don't have access to computers or Wi-Fi.

Minneapolis School Board member Kerry Jo Felder says the digital divide is bigger than we think it is -- but it all boils down to funding.

"Just because of the lack of funding that we've been supplying to our schools for many many years and Minneapolis really carrying the brunt of it," Felder said.

Felder says this digital divide comes from years of underfunding education in Minnesota.

"If we had been fully funding our schools that would have been an extra $54 million we would have had that we could have used to utilize for computers for every child to have," Felder said.

Minneapolis Public Schools says more than 2,700 students are still waiting for delivery of a device and more than 3,600 have no access to Wi-Fi.

Bills and other parents believe more than 40% of black and brown students have no device or Wi-Fi, creating a bigger divide for a district already dealing with huge disparities.

Other school board members say this is a state issue because the state ordered distance learning.

Work will continue to get more money from the legislature to provide all students, urban and rural, with access to computers and Wi-Fi.

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