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East Harlem Students Don't Have Enough Access to Computers, State Pol Says

By Gustavo Solis | February 12, 2016 2:39pm | Updated on February 14, 2016 7:19pm
 Computers at a school library in Red Hook Brooklyn.
Computers at a school library in Red Hook Brooklyn.
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DNAinfo/Nikhita Venugopal

EAST HARLEM — Most public school students in El Barrio don’t have enough access to computers and those who do depend on unreliable internet speeds to learn, according to a report published by State Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez.

The report, “Uptown Upgrade,” calls on the city’s Department of Education to spend $18 million in technological upgrades including increased broadband capacity, more computers, and security upgrades in District 4 schools.

“Policymakers can close the digital divide … through the correct allocation of funds to properly planned, executed, and evaluated school programs,” Rodriguez wrote in the report.

According to the report, the majority of East Harlem schools are not meeting basic recommendations when it comes to student-to-computer ratio. In 1997 President Bill Clinton stated the ratio should be one computer for every five children.

In East Harlem, 78 percent of schools have a computer to student ratio worst than 1:5 and 41 percent are worst than 1:10.

“East Harlem does not have the number of computers needed to support our students that was recommended almost 20 years ago,” according to the report.

When it comes to bandwidth, experts recommended 100 kbps per students in 2013. However only 31 percent of public schools in El Barrio meet that standard, according to the report.

The city's DOE did not refute the report's findings but said they have made significant improvements to their technology infrastructure in the last couple of years.

“While the DOE has made extensive progress in upgrading technology and STEM offerings and taken action on the majority of this report’s recommendations, we will continue to work to meet our schools’ and students’ technology needs,” DOE spokesman Will Mantell.

Since 2013, the DOE has replaced old wiring in 250 buildings. Nearly all school buildings have fiber optic cables capable of faster internet speeds. Additionally, the city will invest $650 million between now and 2019 in technological upgrades including hardware, software and bandwidth upgrades, Mantell said.

Rodriguez said the money can come from the Smart Schools Bond Act, which was approved in 2014 and authorized $783 million for improved technological infrastructure in city schools.

The report states that $2.2 million should go toward broadband improvements in 22 schools, $10 million to retrofit 20 schools and $3.75 million for laptop carts in 25 schools. The rest of the money should go toward smart boards, security improvements and infrastructure upgrades.

“The funds made available through this act should be given to communities that are already underfunded through current state funding policies,” according to the report.