Dallas County

In Dallas ISD, Hispanic Families Less Likely Than White, Black Peers to Have High-Speed Internet

Kids have had to learn online amid the pandemic.
Kids have had to learn online amid the pandemic. Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash
Hispanic families living in the boundaries of Dallas ISD are the least likely to have internet service at home, according to a new report.

Despite nearly universal access to this service, Hispanic families haven’t adopted it at the same rate as white and Black families, according to the survey by the Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation (TxHPF). This is in part because of language barriers, plus a lack of awareness of programs that provide it at low or no cost.

The pandemic has made virtual learning a necessity for teaching kids, so internet connectivity is all the more essential, said TxHPF CEO Jason Villalba.

“If Hispanic families remain technologically disadvantaged, Hispanic children, who represent over 50% of the future workforce, will be left behind,” Villalba said in a statement. “This is simply unacceptable.”

Around 87% of all Dallas ISD parents who took the survey reported that they have high-speed internet at home. Breaking it down further, 96% of white parents have the service, compared with 87% of Black and 81% of Hispanic parents.

The difference between white and Hispanic families makes for a “pretty large gap,” said Mark Jones, TxHPF’s chief information and analytics officer.

Nearly three-quarters of Dallas ISD parents without home internet say it's too expensive, he said. In addition, most families within the bounds of DISD don’t know about low-cost internet options offered by Spectrum, AT&T and the FCC Emergency Broadband Benefit Program.

There was an especially low awareness among Hispanics who prefer to interact in Spanish, Jones added.

“Not only do AT&T, Spectrum and the FCC need to engage in a much more robust education campaign to alert people to the existence of these programs and how to sign up for them, but that especially needs to be done in Spanish,” he said.

The digital divide is also present on a nationwide scale. One quarter of all school-aged kids don’t have access to broadband at home or to a web-enabled device like a tablet or computer, the National Education Association (NEA) reported in October 2020.

“If Hispanic families remain technologically disadvantaged, Hispanic children ... will be left behind." – Jason Villalba, TxHPF CEO

tweet this
When the pandemic first struck the country and pushed schools online, some students were left without access to the classroom. Such inequality would often fall along racial, geographical and socioeconomic lines, according to the NEA.

Students of color and those who live in rural areas are much less likely than their peers to have full internet connectivity. Some can't afford a laptop or an internet subscription, and certain households must share their electronic devices among family members.

Without high-speed internet, attending virtual classes is “very difficult and certainly suboptimal,” Jones said. But DISD could work toward finding solutions, he added.

For instance, the district could engage in a joint awareness campaign with AT&T and Spectrum, Jones explained. This could educate DISD residents of the low-cost broadband options that exist, as well as the federal subsidies.

A large number of parents who are eligible for free lunches, which is an indicator of lower income, aren’t aware of these programs, Jones said. Enrolling for them isn’t exactly simple, so providing assistance in signing up would also be ideal.

“If Dallas ISD had some type of assistance program whereby they not only educated parents about these programs but also assisted them in signing up for them,” Jones said, “that would go a long way towards reducing the broadband gap that exists between Hispanic and white families in the Dallas area.”

The survey also found that Dallas ISD parents trust private companies over local government entities to provide internet. More than three-quarters (78%) of respondents think that a network by Dallas ISD or the county could lead to a spike in property taxes.

“DISD parents do not want the school district or the county to build, implement or maintain its own high-speed internet system,” Villalba said. “Our parent-centered research shows that most parents believe that if the government does attempt to build its own system, the result will be higher property taxes.”
KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Simone Carter, a staff news reporter at the Dallas Observer, graduated from the University of North Texas' Mayborn School of Journalism. Her favorite color is red, but she digs Miles Davis' Kind of Blue.
Contact: Simone Carter