(TriceEdneyWire.com) – Illinois Governor J. Robert “JB” Pritzker recently announced that remote learning for Illinois pre-K-12 students enrolled in public and private schools will continue their studies until the end of the academic year while schools remain closed to stop or slow the spread of COVID-19.

“Following careful consideration of the science and close consultation with public health experts in Illinois and across the nation, in-person learning in schools will not resume during the 2019-2020 school year, with remote learning days to continue for all pre-k through 12 grade students,” Pritzker said.

With that announcement, Illinois joins 25 states and three U.S. territories that have either ordered or recommended that schools keep their buildings closed for the remainder of the academic year and rely on distance learning.

Distance learning has rapidly grown, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

The Economic Policy Institute, a Washington, D. C.-based think tank, recently published an article headlined “Access to the online learning amid coronavirus is far from universal, and children who are poor suffer from a digital divide. ”

EPI reported the digital divide is based on family income.

“The data from the National Center for Education Statistics’ National Assessment of Educational Progress for eighth-graders, show that full access to online learning is far from universal and that students who are poor are less likely to have access to the key tools and experiences they need to attend school online,” NAEP reported.

The numbers are very troubling.

Nearly 16% of eighth graders overall, and almost 25% of eighth graders who are poor, do not have a desktop or laptop computer at home on which they can follow their classes, EPI reported.

The Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday in an article headlined “Students are in desperate need of computers amid coronavirus distance learning” black and Latino students are less likely to have the technology they need to learn digitally.

California Gov. Gavin Newsome announced this week that more than 70,000 laptops, Chromebooks and tablets have been donated to the school system by technology companies to assist in distance learning.

Poor students are defined as students who are eligible for the federal free-lunch or reduced-price lunch program.

Before some governors ordered residents to shelter in place, students could visit branches of the public library and use those computers, which are free and connected to Internet, but now the libraries are also closed until further notice.

The Economic Policy Institute also noted that 7 percent of eighth graders who are poor do not have access at home to the Internet or hotspots, which can be expensive and essential to online learning. The National Center for Education Statistics reported that American Indian/Alaska Native, Black, and Hispanic students have lower rates of home internet access than their peers who are White and Asian.

Only a fifth of teachers considered themselves proficient in integrating computers into classroom instruction.

“The shares of students with teachers who don’t consider themselves proficient but have received some training in applications and computer use is higher,” EPI reported. “Yet that still leaves nearly 24.1 percent of eighth -graders with teachers who are neither proficient in nor trained in software applications.”

By Frederick H. Lowe