Before the pandemic, Burden ensured that each student starting from the third grade through the twelfth grade received a Chromebook to aid in instruction. However, on March 13, 2020, her world was turned upside down.
“On March 13th, we closed our schools (due to the COVID-19 pandemic). On March 16th, we had teachers teaching virtually all day, every day,” Burden explained. “So I went from traveling from school to school, to answering approximately 400 emails per day. They varied from, ‘Hey, I can’t get into this tool?’, to ‘What can I do to make this better?’”
Since the pandemic, Burden believes teachers have embraced the different technologies and platforms available to better engage with the students, while shrinking the tech gap.
“I feel as though our students have embraced technology, so have our teachers,” said Burden. We better understand how we use technology to bridge the gaps between our communities or classrooms, and really enhance our students’ experiences in schools.”
Burden is also the founder of Equity in Education for All, an organization committed to empowering, educating, and emboldening, each person who teaches, parents, and serves in communities and with students of color through intentional and focused equity-driven professional development for schools and communities.
According to a survey By EdWeek, 42 percent of principals didn’t believe that their school would support their students in a virtual learning setting, at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, the number has dropped to 11 percent when the same participants were surveyed in October.
However, one of the stumbling blocks continues to be the lack of consistent internet access in some households.
“That’s because it requires money,” exclaimed Burden. “That funding just wasn’t there. Unfortunately, some people will say it’s the school district. But honestly, what people don’t understand is a lot of that money is earmarked for things, and they can’t use it for things that you’re not allowed to use it for. The FCC originally told [the school districts and school systems] you should not use money, this specifically earmarked money to expand internet access, which doesn’t make sense.”
President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan will have more than $7 billion earmarked for education in the state of Georgia.
So here are a few tidbits about it. Nationally, there will be $800 million earmarked for students experiencing homelessness, plus $2 billion for the Head Start Program, a bellwether item that Democrats have long since wanted to fully fund. In addition, $3 billion has been set aside for students with disabilities.
“Some of those [funds] include coordinating with public health departments, which we’ve seen throughout this pandemic,” said Burden.
“It’s reaped benefits, by leaps and bounds to meet the needs of low income students and address their gaps. Purchasing educational technology, right? We don’t have to depend on donations anymore. We saw that happen across Georgia, big companies came in to provide Chromebooks and laptops and mobile hotspots and that’s not what we should be doing.
Burden possesses a Bachelor’s in Textiles and Clothing from The Ohio State University, a Master’s in Special Education, and an Ed.S. in technology and education. Most recently, she completed her Ph.D. work at the University of Georgia in educational policy.
Burden says she is passionate about the experience of Black families in public schools, and how it feels for them.
“Research says that families and children and their parents don’t feel welcome in the buildings,” said Burden. “They’re not going to go there, they’re not going to receive the best and highest quality of care. That’s really what I’m passionate about.”
This article is one of a series of articles produced by The Atlanta Voice through support provided by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to Word In Black, a collaborative of 10 Black-owned media outlets across the country.