BY PATRICIA TIMMONS-GOODSON
As students head back to school this fall, my heart goes out to all of you. I think back to when my two sons attended school in Fayetteville. I understand how decisions about schooling weigh heavily on the minds of parents and teachers. The pandemic has increased the gravity of these decisions.
Teachers and administrators, I am thankful every day for your devotion to your students and your extraordinary efforts to teach during the pandemic.
Education is key to who I am. It enabled me to live a life of public service and in large measure to repay those who invested in my future. My father’s military service allowed all six of his children to receive financial assistance to acquire a good education — the kind of education all young people deserve.
Parents, I sympathize with the difficult choices and sacrifices you must make. While grappling with job loss, working from home, or going out to work in this uncertain environment, you are also cooking, cleaning, and worrying about bills and your family’s health. Now, you are also instructing your children. Many of you can hold down this fort; others are up against almost impossible odds. I salute each and every one of you, and I pray for the day when life will return to some semblance of normalcy.
Across the 8th Congressional District, parents and educators are working hard to decide whether and how to get students back to school. We can all agree that every child must have the technological tools and skills needed to succeed at school and in the modern world.
Many families may not have the means to afford a computer or an internet service provider. About 290,000 students in North Carolina have no Internet access in their homes and around 70,000 have no computer. Many live in rural areas or small towns with no internet service or an unreliable connection.
These realities create a significant digital divide between the “haves” of technology and the “have-nots.” The consequences of the divide will snowball over time and exacerbate the wealth inequalities we see today.
But right now, technology can make or break a child’s chances of attending school at all. During this pandemic, a shortage of computers and insufficient internet access has created an educational emergency.
If you elect me to Congress this fall, I will work to ensure that school technology programs are fully funded and that all families, no matter their income or where they live, can access high-quality, high-speed internet. I will fight to increase federal funding to expand broadband internet access for families across North Carolina.
My Republican opponent, Richard Hudson, has represented the 8th Congressional district since 2013 when he was elected to Congress. The digital divide remains, and he has acted too little and too late on governmental efforts to address broadband internet access.
It’s time for a change. We must strive to bring broadband internet to rural areas and small towns just as we brought electricity to rural America in the 1930s. We must aim to provide all schools and students all the supplies needed to learn today — including digital technology and high-speed internet access. Achieving these goals is critical for our young people. If elected, I will do everything in my power to bring the members of Congress together to achieve them.
Patricia Timmons-Goodson is the Democratic candidate for the 8th Congressional District. She was the first African American woman to serve on the North Carolina Supreme Court, and she was later appointed by President Barack Obama to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. She has lived in Fayetteville most of her life, having moved here as a young teenager when her father was stationed at Fort Bragg.