Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke told city leaders from across the country how COVID-19 has disproportionately affected minority communities and created a growing education inequality.
On Friday, Berke met with members of the National League of Cities to discuss the pandemic-related crisis associated with employment, housing and neighborhood design.
“The pandemic didn’t create inequality in American cities, but it has revealed it to a broader audience, and now we must add some urgency to address it,” said Berke.
Berke specifically mentioned that access to broadband is one the biggest issues that cities need to tackle, specifically in regards to education. While some children have been able to return to school, others have had to rely on technology to receive an education. Many minority families have limited access to technology and are at risk at being left behind in their education.
The lack of child care nationwide has worsened the problem as young children are not receiving a structured education, which “is a danger of tremendous proportions,” said Berke.
Chattanooga has become the poster child for widespread broadband access. According to Consumer Reports, Chattanooga’s municipally-owned telecoms provider, the Electric Power Board of Chattanooga (EPB), is one of the top-rated services nationwide, and Berke encouraged other cities to follow their lead.
Broadband access in Chattanooga is free for families with children enrolled in free or reduced lunches at school.
City officials have also made all community centers available for virtual schooling, specifically to help families that are unable to provide a safe environment for children. They are currently working on expanding early-learning opportunities to address limited childcare options.