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Arkansas Parents Stepping Up to the Plate

An effort is under way to make internet access available to kids in their homes across Arkansas. (Carrie Cain)
An effort is under way to make internet access available to kids in their homes across Arkansas. (Carrie Cain)
June 13, 2016

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A group that's worked for more than two decades to get parents more involved in their children's education says a lot of work needs to be done across the country to beef up communication.

Project Appleseed is made up of mostly volunteers who try to get parents, grandparents and guardians involved in the classroom.

The group's president, Kevin Walker, says there's a huge communication gap between schools and parents in some states, but in Arkansas progress has been made.

"Arkansas's been doing a good job in little pockets,” he states. “You can see it in the communities that are doing it on their own, even without the state mandating it. Kentucky and Tennessee do an excellent job."

Project Appleseed asks parents and guardians to sign a pledge to volunteer in their child's school and to read to their child for a minimum number of hours per week.

Walker says many parents never have any communication with their child's teacher outside of the parent-teacher conference, and some don't attend those either. He backs plans to have all schools send texts and emails.

"What parents want is important information from schools sent to them on a regular basis, but they don't want it sent home in the child's backpack or by mail,” he states. “They want it conveniently in email. They want to be able to go online and look at it when it suits their time."

Walker's group also is pushing for legislation to provide better Internet access for families. He says some will argue that affordable broadband just allows people to surf the web or watch videos.

"We're worried about when they do use it right,” he says. “Even if they only use the Internet for 20 percent of their time to use it right, that would mean they'd be checking on school, checking on their kids, looking for a job, engaging themselves in the larger community."

Walker wants the federal government to expand the Lifeline program, which was set up in the '80s to make telephone service affordable. It also would give those below the federal poverty level a subsidy to pay for an Internet connection.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - AR