Digital Divide

Liu's latest education report urges home computers for students

Screen shot 2013-04-05 at 4.21.35 PMComptroller John Liu wants the city to help every low-income high school graduate head off to college with his or her own computer.

In a new report, Liu — who is also running for mayor — urges the city to partner with technology companies to provide refurbished computers to students who otherwise might not have a computer in college. He also recommends that the city encourage businesses to donate their outdated computer equipment to schools; and expand nonprofit programs that place computers in students’ homes and train students to repair their schools’ computers.

The report on closing the “digital literacy divide” is the latest in a series about how the city can boost the number of its students who graduate from college and contribute to its economy. Altogether, Liu, who is responsible for the city’s fiscal stewardship, calls for nearly $40 million a year  in new spending on computers and technology programs. (Expanding the student-led computer support program could save the city $15 million a year, according to the report.)

The report does not mention mobile technology, which a study released last month by the Pew Internet and American Life Project suggested might be closing the digital divide in some ways.

Smartphone ownership is equally pervasive for low-income and middle-class teenagers, the study found, with low-income teens more frequently using their phones as their main way to get online.

But Connor Osetek, a spokesman for Liu, said mobile technology does not facilitate the kind of “educational space” in children’s homes that is associated with improved academic performance. He also said the kind of academic work that the city wants students to do can’t be done well using smartphones.

“We believe that wireless technology is absolutely important, but if the purpose is really to get students engaged in academics, there’s no substitute for a regular computer (including laptops and netbooks) with broadband internet access,” Osetek said. “Things like conducting research and writing papers just can’t be accomplished nearly as well with wireless technology.”

Previous reports in “Beyond High School NYC” series called for the city to spend $176 million a year on guidance counselors to help more students get into college and to overhaul the city’s school board, known as the Panel for Educational Policy.

The latest report is below:

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.


For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.


Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.