Education Week - May 13, 2020 - 17
Karen Ruark, a 3rd grade
teacher in Maryland, drives
to the South Dorchester
School four days a week to
access the WiFi there. She
often works in her car while
her two teenage daughters
do schoolwork in the
Jaclyn Borowski/Education Week
a New York state law that barred
permanent certification for teachers who were not U.S. citizens, or
seeking citizenship, there is a footnote that says: "As [Rodriguez] recognized, there is no inconsistency
between our recognition of the vital
significance of public education and
our holding that access to education
is not guaranteed by the Constitution."
The author of that opinion, including that footnote, was Justice
Murphy wondered in his dissent
whether the majority's recognition
of a basic minimum right "will immerse federal courts in a host of
education disputes far outside our
constitutionally assigned role to interpret legal texts."
Will courts "compel states to raise
their taxes to generate the needed
funds?" Murphy said. "Or order
states to give parents vouchers
so that they may choose different
schools? How old may textbooks be
before they become constitutionally
outdated? What minimum amount
of training must teachers receive?
Which HVAC systems must public
Federal judges have no special insights into such questions of educational policy, he said.
Jonathan H. Adler, a law professor
at Case Western Reserve University
in Cleveland, echoed the dissenting
judge, saying the majority's opinion is an "outlier" that is likely to be
"It's hard not to root for the students," he said. "What the case describes is awful. But as pure doctrinal
matter, this is a substantial departure
from where the law has been."
As for the next steps in the Detroit
case, it's a little unclear. The original
lead defendant, Republican Gov.
Richard B. Snyder, has been replaced
in the litigation by current Gov.
Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat.
Whitmer's office gave a cautious
reaction when the opinion came out,
saying the governor of course supported access to literacy and improving the Detroit schools.
Michigan Attorney General Dana
Nessel, a Democrat who took office
in 2019, tried unsuccessfully to file a
brief in the case for herself in support
of the plaintiffs, even though her office was defending against the lawsuit. (The 6th Circuit did not accept
her brief for filing.)
The state legally has the right to
seek review by the full 6th Circuit
or the Supreme Court. And the full
6th Circuit could decide to rehear
the case on its own even if the state
does not appeal.
So, as the case returns to the trial
court, several observers suggested
that a settlement is a distinct possibility.
"It's time for this case to go from
the courtroom to the classroom,"
said Rosenbaum, the lead lawyer for
the students, adding that he wasn't
concerned about the case reaching
the Supreme Court and potentially
setting a national precedent.
"You don't file suits to make law,"
he said. "You file suits to make
Teachers Without Internet Work in Parking Lots,
Empty School Buildings During COVID-19
By Madeline Will
About four days a week, 3rd grade teacher Karen
Ruark and her two daughters drive to school to get
some work done. Once they get there, Ruark parks
the car-and they all pull out their laptops.
Ruark lives on Hoopers Island in Maryland's
Chesapeake Bay. Her internet access is weak and
unreliable, so she works in the parking lot of her
school in Dorchester County to use the WiFi there.
While Ruark posts messages to her students and
downloads class materials, her daughters, who are
both in high school, sit in the back seat and work
on their assignments. Some days, they spend close
to two hours in the car.
"Anytime there's wind, rain, or high tide, we
don't have internet service. Even on a day with
nice weather and a good connection, it doesn't
mean we'll have service," Ruark said. "If I want to
post anything with directions on [the messaging
app] Remind, I have to go up to the school. My internet service isn't large enough to even send out
one simple picture."
The nation's digital divide has been in the spotlight as school districts have transitioned to remote
learning this spring. More than a quarter of U.S.
homes don't have broadband internet service, according to a Pew Research Center report from last
year. District leaders, especially those who serve a
high percentage of students from low-income families, have said technology access is a major challenge during these extended school shutdowns.
But it's not just students without access to the
internet-it's also their teachers.
While only 4 percent of teachers don't have
high-speed wireless access at home, according to
a nationally representative Education Week survey
of 785 teachers, it's particularly a problem in rural
areas, where broadband internet service is spotty,
expensive, or nonexistent.
"Educators are now assumed to have devices
and internet access and unlimited data to do their
job, and [in some cases], they don't," said Cheryl
Bost, the president of the Maryland State Education Association.
The lack of reliable, high-speed internet can
make an already overwhelming job of pivoting to
online instruction even more stressful, teachers
"I've got teachers that are calling me in the
middle of the night, [saying], 'I just need to talk to
someone, I'm so frustrated. It takes me 20 minutes
just to open the page,' " said Katie Holbrook, the
president of Dorchester Educators, the local association that represents teachers in the Maryland
school district that stretches across hundreds of
miles of farmland and waterways.
Some teachers have been put on three-month
waiting lists for internet service at their houses,
she said. And teachers who have school-aged children at home have the additional stressor of trying
to juggle multiple video calls and other demands
on their weak internet service.
Carla Swenson, an elementary STEM teacher,
lives eight miles outside of Glasgow, Mont., an
isolated town dubbed by the Washington Post as
the "middle of nowhere." She has internet access
at home, but it's not strong enough for her and her
son, a high school freshman, to both be on a Zoom
call at the same time.
"My husband and I always told him there's nothing that should ever come between you and your
education," she said. But now, "we had to have an
argument-Mom has to be on Zoom right now, and
I need to be because I'm paying the mortgage."
Districts Provide WiFi Hotspots
In addition to providing devices for students,
school districts are trying to make sure their teachers are connected, too. But only 1 percent of teachers said their district or school is paying for their
internet access at home, EdWeek's survey found.
In Dorchester County, where Ruark works, all
teachers are receiving a $37 monthly stipend for
the use of their personal internet and cellphones,
a spokeswoman said.
Meanwhile, Lee County Public Schools on the
coast of southwest Florida has spent $720,000
buying 3,000 mobile hotspots with cellular data
service for students and staff without internet access at home. District officials set aside about 300
hotspots for teachers and other instructional staff
to get first.
"It wouldn't do any good for three or four students to have an internet hotspot when a teacher
doesn't have internet access and is responsible for
many more students," said Trey Davis, the chief
information officer of the 90,000-student school
Some of those educators didn't have internet
at home because they live in hard-to-reach areas,
while others couldn't afford it, he said.
"We all realize that in general, teachers don't get
paid what they should be paid, so we look to support our teachers in any capacity we can," Davis
Brainerd Public Schools, a rural district two
hours outside of Minneapolis, gave hotspots to 35
staff members who didn't have internet access at
home. For Aline Glib, an early-childhood special
education teacher, that hotspot has made it possible to do her job at home.
"A lot of the things I need to do for my kids are
making videos for them to watch," she said. "I
need to do a lot of things by video, and so that
takes quite a bit of uploading. ... It would have
been almost impossible to do a seven-minute
video on our internet."
Other school districts have allowed teachers to
go into empty classrooms to work, as long as they
follow social-distancing protocols.
In Detroit, for example, school officials opened up
one school building for teachers who don't have internet access at home. Only three teachers are working there, a district spokeswoman said in an email.
'It's Really Crazy'
Uneven internet coverage has always been a
major equity issue, teachers say, but the extended
school closures have put a bigger focus on the
"This is showing our deficits in areas of need,"
said Bost, the head of the Maryland state teachers' union. "Even when we go back to what some
people would call normal, these are still issues that
we have to address."
Bost said she hopes that going forward, states
will invest more in infrastructure for rural areas,
as well as in more funding for schools.
Swenson, the Montana teacher, is the president
of the local teachers' union-and this crisis has
made her consider bringing at-home internet access for teachers to the bargaining table, she said.
However, she noted, that would likely mean sacrificing a pay raise.
For now, teachers are just trying to make it work.
Amanda Robinson, a high school math teacher
in the Dorchester County school district, lives on
her family's farm, too far from the main roads to
get cable internet. She has unlimited data on her
phone, but once she uses a certain amount, it becomes impossible to do anything other than check
email. Her school laptop can't connect to a mobile
hotspot anyway, and she doesn't have a personal
computer. She's applied for wireless internet
through a local provider, but she's stuck on a waiting list and hasn't heard back.
For now, she'll sometimes drive two miles to
her mom's house, which is closer to the main road
and has the internet, to do a Zoom meeting. Other
times, she'll take her three kids-ages 12, 8, and 4-
to work at her sister's house, which is a mile and a
half away. Her sister, who is also a teacher, has two
small children, ages 4 and 2.
"All five of them are playing, and she'll be on a
call with one of her students, and I'll have a staff
meeting or be on a call with one of my students,"
Robinson said. "There are times ... when it's really
EDUCATION WEEK | May 13, 2020 | www.edweek.org | 17
Education Week - May 13, 2020
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - May 13, 2020
Education Week - May 13, 2020
Collapse: Coronavirus Will Make Inequalities in Public Schools Even Worse
Remembering 18-Year-Old Who Died From Coronavirus
‘Summer Melt’ Could Be a Flood As Seniors Shift College Plans
Schools Struggle to Meet Students’ Mounting Mental-Health Needs
7 Big Issues for Unions and Districts in Remote Teaching Agreements
District Hard-Hit by COVID-19 Begins ‘Tough Work’ of Getting On
Right-to-Education Ruling Jolts Advocacy World
Teachers Without Internet Work In Parking Lots, Empty School Building During COVID-19
What We Can Still Learn From Hurricane Katrina
A Blueprint for Reopening Schools This Fall
The Sleeping Giant: Emotional Trauma
Letters to the Editor
EdWeek Top School Jobs
Education Week - May 13, 2020 - Collapse: Coronavirus Will Make Inequalities in Public Schools Even Worse
Education Week - May 13, 2020 - 2
Education Week - May 13, 2020 - Briefly Stated
Education Week - May 13, 2020 - 4
Education Week - May 13, 2020 - Remembering 18-Year-Old Who Died From Coronavirus
Education Week - May 13, 2020 - ‘Summer Melt’ Could Be a Flood As Seniors Shift College Plans
Education Week - May 13, 2020 - 7
Education Week - May 13, 2020 - Schools Struggle to Meet Students’ Mounting Mental-Health Needs
Education Week - May 13, 2020 - 9
Education Week - May 13, 2020 - 10
Education Week - May 13, 2020 - 7 Big Issues for Unions and Districts in Remote Teaching Agreements
Education Week - May 13, 2020 - 12
Education Week - May 13, 2020 - 13
Education Week - May 13, 2020 - District Hard-Hit by COVID-19 Begins ‘Tough Work’ of Getting On
Education Week - May 13, 2020 - 15
Education Week - May 13, 2020 - Right-to-Education Ruling Jolts Advocacy World
Education Week - May 13, 2020 - Teachers Without Internet Work In Parking Lots, Empty School Building During COVID-19
Education Week - May 13, 2020 - What We Can Still Learn From Hurricane Katrina
Education Week - May 13, 2020 - The Sleeping Giant: Emotional Trauma
Education Week - May 13, 2020 - Letters to the Editor
Education Week - May 13, 2020 - 21
Education Week - May 13, 2020 - 22
Education Week - May 13, 2020 - EdWeek Top School Jobs
Education Week - May 13, 2020 - 24