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High Speed Internet: Boost to Distance Learning

Cindy Kyle | MSU IPPSR
Matt Grossmann, Charley Ballard, Arnold Weinfeld

Will pandemic inspire more support for access, asks State of the State Podcast

High speed internet should be available to all learners, especially students in K-12 schools, another lesson from the coronavirus pandemic, researchers broadcasting on the State of the State Podcast are agreed.

“That would be ideal,” said Katharine Strunk, professor and Erickson Distinguished Chair of Michigan State University’s Department of Educational Administration.

“That is going to be a core component of any kind of remote instruction going forward,” she said during the podcast recorded monthly by MSU’s Institute for Public Policy and Social Research and WKAR News/Talk.

The podcast also featured IPPSR Director Matt Grossmann, MSU political scientist, and Charles Ballard, economist and director of the State of the State Survey which measures Michigan opinion on current affairs and consumer confidence. IPPSR Associate Director Arnold Weinfeld hosts the broadcast.

Credit Michigan State University
Katharine Stunk

High speed internet offers the perfect opportunity for business and education to join advocacy forces, Ballard said. “I'm kind of hopeful that we could put those two groups together for a political push to really, really ramp up our efforts toward getting high speed internet access for everyone in Michigan.”

Internet access also calls for hardware, Weinfeld added. “It’s about having the equipment,” he said. In the Lansing area, Waverly Community Schools made 1,100 Chromebooks available to high school students.

Urban and rural legislators may also agree on the issue, Weinfeld said. “The political side of this might make for some strange bedfellows.”

State of the State podcasters also encouraged local districts to tap resources in a new MSU assessment of education response to the pandemic. Strunk is faculty director of the Education Policy Innovation Collaborative (EPIC) which paired with IPPSR to create a new database of school response nationwide to the coronavirus and COVID-19 infection.

Find the easily searchable database at EPIC at https://epicedpolicy.org/report-state-policies-to-address-covid-19-school-closure/ and at IPPSR at https://bit.ly/IPPSRSchools.

As the pandemic took hold in Michigan school buildings were closed to face-to-face instruction before the traditional summer break began. State law requires a minimum 1,098 hours of instruction.

Educators may need to adjust school calendars and assess student readiness to learn when they return to classrooms to avoid the “summer slide,” lost learning between school’s end and traditional fall beginning, podcasters said.

The researchers also assessed the state’s economic fortunes. State legislative economic analysts forecast a $6.2 billion revenue shortfall in Michigan’s budget for the current and next fiscal years.

Congress and the federal government, plus the state’s Rainy Day Fund, valued at about $1 billion, may have to come to the rescue, Ballard said.

Politics may yet prevail, Grossmann cautioned. “The governor has almost complete power to make these midyear rescissions, and the Legislature could have an incentive to want her to be the one to lay out those cuts. So, watch out for the politics surrounding this situation.”

MSU’s Institute for Public Policy and Social Research is a unit within the College of Social Science. Its focus is on national and statewide public policy education, political leadership and survey research.

MSU Today airs Sunday mornings at 9:00 on 105.1 FM, AM 870, and your smart speaker and connected devices.

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