Lawmakers: Gov. Murphy needs to do more to bridge digital divide for New Jersey students

Lawmakers in both parties say that the Murphy administration needs to do more to supply devices and internet connections to students who need them.

News 12 Staff

Sep 11, 2020, 12:03 AM

Updated 1,321 days ago

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Lawmakers in both parties say that the Murphy administration needs to do more to supply devices and internet connections to students who need them.
“It is a huge red flag for all of us. We are ultimately engaging in the process of filtering kids toward failure,” said Democratic state Sen. Teresa Ruiz.
The Senate Budget Committee questioned interim Education Commissioner Kevin Dehmer on Thursday about exactly how many students still can’t learn from home due to a lack of devices or internet connections.
“There are municipalities in my district that even if you were to give a child a laptop, it wouldn't be effective because they don't have access to the Internet,” said Republican state Sen. Mike Testa. “I know that's somewhat of a surprise to many of the people in the state of New Jersey…the internet used to be a luxury, now it's a necessity. But in some of my municipalities it simply doesn't exist.”
Dehmer says that no state has really been able to nail down how exactly to address the issue.
“It’s a very difficult question to answer, because you’re trying to get this information, which can be complicated, from parents directly,” he said.
The governor has touted Education Week Magazine's naming New Jersey's public schools as No.1 in the nation. But during Thursday's budget committee hearing, Sen. Ruiz said that she was not buying it.
“And if we do not have a mission statement that recognizes that New Jersey might be No. 1, which I think is a complete lie, right? We have some schools that do phenomenally well and we have some schools that are struggling,” she said. “If we don't acknowledge the reality of who we are in the state, that it will never get us to a place where we can do policy that really moves our students forward.”
The Legislature has until midnight on Sept. 30 to approve a spending plan, so the Senate Budget Committee will only be hearing public testimony from the Education, Corrections and Labor Departments.
“As it is every year, it's a lot of local decision making, and you know, as soon as you pass a budget, things can change and so you have to be able to be dynamic throughout the school year and adjust as needs change,” Dehmer said.
About two-thirds of the state's school districts will receive more funding under the governor's plan, 196 districts are losing funding and 12 others will see no change in funding levels.


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