The Dallas Regional Chamber got a detailed look on Thursday at a survey that has some worried about the city's future workforce.
A recent survey by the Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation found Hispanic families in the Dallas Independent School District are less likely than white or Black families to have high-speed internet at home.
This is a longstanding issue that's been especially challenging during the COVID-19 pandemic and virtual learning.
Last fall, a Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation survey of more than 450 dozed parents found 96% of white parents are more likely to have high-speed internet at home, compared to 87% of Black parents and 81% of Latinos, despite the district's nearly universal access to high-speed internet at little to no cost.
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There are many factors, said TxHPF Chairman and CEO Jason Villalba.
“The problem is because Hispanic families, because they primarily speak Spanish, don't always understand that these programs are available,” he said.
The survey found that because they’re not aware of available programs, many Hispanic parents cite "monthly costs" as the primary reason for not having internet access at home.
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It also found that 36% of Latino parents are more likely to trust a private company to provide them with reliable high-speed internet than a local government entity like Dallas ISD, "believing that a government-built network would result in higher property taxes."
“Technology is the obstacle. Equipment is the obstacle,” said Rene Martinez of the Dallas chapter of LULAC. “Most Latino parents do not have that savviness in terms of knowing how to access a lesson plan or the interaction with the teacher.”
Dallas ISD points to ongoing initiatives to make internet access more equitable, including Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa’s "Operation Connectivity" and "Internet for All" campaigns during the pandemic.
Martinez credits the district for its ongoing effort but wants to see more done.
“In-person, parent academies, parent training,” he said. “Effective parent engagement, which is really the bottom line.”
There is concern over what this could mean for the city’s future workforce.
“Workforce development is critically important to the future of Dallas if we don't have workers all across the board in all different sectors in the next 10,15, 20 years, our economy will begin to shrink. Our jobs will not be the same level and tender of jobs as we hope that we can get,” said Villalba.
The foundation hopes that presenting its findings to the chamber of commerce and other city and district leaders turns into action, including creating strong outreach campaigns in Spanish.
“We will continue to follow up with our local officials with the private sector to see if we cannot begin to really implement the kinds of programs that we're talking about,” said Villalba. “If we can ensure that all children, Black or Hispanic or white, have access to these kinds of programs that already exist, I think we can begin to bridge the gap that occurred during the pandemic.”