Posted on May 20, 2020

Black Students Desperately Need a New Federal Lifeline

Ben Crump, The Hill, May 20, 2020

Among the cascading tragedies of the COVID-19 pandemic and its devastating and disproportionate impacts on Black and Hispanic Americans is this: Without digital devices or a data source, children of color who are already disadvantaged in our education system will miss out on a year of schooling. That adds even higher peril to children who are already at great risk of not performing on grade level, not graduating high school and not attending and finishing college — all of which ensures lower lifetime earnings.

But there is a ready answer. Fittingly, it is called “Lifeline.”

The federal Lifeline program was created in the 1980s under President Reagan to help low-income Americans afford telephone service. It has been expanded over the years to help provide access to a basic cellphone with a limited amount of data.

The most recent evolution, to accommodate broadband, was demonized by some Republicans who labeled it the “Obamaphone” program. Here’s a modest but timely proposal, given President Trump’s quest to reverse all markers of the Obama administration: Update Lifeline to cover educational tools like tablets and provide enough data for low-income kids to access their classes from home.