Open Letter: Provide equity in access to Emerging Multilingual Learners during distance learning

As policymakers and educators implement educational distance learning plans during the coronavirus pandemic, Minnesota Education Equity Partnership (MnEEP) calls on state leaders to address important digital racial inequities that impact our immigrant and English Learner communities and, without immediate intervention and support plans from the state, would further exacerbate Minnesota’s deep racial disparities.

Emerging Multilingual Learners (EML, often called “English Learners”) and students from immigrant families are the fastest-growing student group in Minnesota, totaling 73,919 students in the 2018-19 school year (more than 8% of all public-school enrollments).

These students report that they and their families may not have access to the internet, may lack the routers or other hardware needed to access the internet, and may not have household members technologically experienced to support student learning during this crucial home-based digital learning time period.

MnEEP reminds policymakers and the public that an equitable and just education systems is not limited to delivering education in school buildings—it also applies to on-line digital learning. 

We must develop and promote equitable digital-learning resources  and tools  that support our EML students and their families, and ensure Minnesota advances race equity and education excellence for all students . We must hold our students harmless to a new on-line learning delivery system they may face difficulties participating in due to resource gaps in access to technology and the internet.  We must declare WiFi access as a human right when learning is directly dependent on this digital resource.

To this end, MnEEP and our partners request the following set of supplemental state and local school district funding recommendations, called for by the Migration Policy Institute, to remedy the current digital racial disparities in Minnesota education system.

1. Support technology access and online needs:

  • Distribution of laptops, Chromebooks, or tablets for students to  use at home.
  • Free, open, and public internet access, especially in rural areas, that does not require families to use personal information to register.
  • Intentional technology training opportunities for families and students in the language of the family, and in forms beyond just written.
  • Development of multilingual online learning resources that are culturally relevant for EMLs.
  • Increase the capacity of districts to support multilingual communications centered on district families’ linguistic needs, including hiring more multilingual and POC staff,  and investment in oral and written translation capacity.
  • Requirement that each district  to maintain a level of multilingual, two-way communication capacity that’s responsive to the district’s linguistic demographics.

2. Support the EML community and ongoing learning needs:

  • Family literacy and family engagement, including technology literacy for adults.
  • Free meals in the summer.
  • Books to send home with students (including over the summer).
  • Summer and afterschool learning, with an assurance that funds will be targeted to EML students and that schools will employ educators, with expertise in teaching EMLs, to deliver such programs.
  • Funding for community-based organizations such as refugee and immigrant service providers to complement student learning with afterschool and summer enrichment, family engagement, and technology literacy for immigrant families.

Furthermore, MnEEP agrees with the Minnesota Teachers of English Language (MinneTESOL) in their call for:

  • The State and local school districts to work with internet service providers to expand the number of public “hotspots” in areas where broadband infrastructure exists and,
  • The State to hold internet providers accountable for offering low-cost options, especially for families living in areas where the only option is through data plans connected to telephones.

We ask that Minnesota Governor Walz and Minnesota legislators support these policies and advance the needed supplemental funding forward to ensure a racially just and equitable digital-learning experience for Minnesota’s fastest-growing student population.

Signed,

  • MnEEP
  • Dr. Jill Watson
  • Dr. Karla Stone
  • Heidi Bernal
  • Kristina Robertson
  • KaYing Yang
  • Leiataua Dr. Jon Peterson​

 

Scroll to top