Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announced legislation to invest $4 billion in educational funding in the next relief package to ensure students have access to technology and broadband in order to continue their education during the COVID-19 outbreak. Research shows the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the “homework gap” experienced by an estimated 12 million students who lack reliable internet access at home. This problem particularly affects students in rural and urban areas, as well as lower-income students and students of color. Before the pandemic, roughly 70 percent of educators assigned schoolwork that required internet access but, as schools have closed, remote learning is now required for the majority of students. The Senate’s Emergency Educational Connections Act of 2020 would provide $4 billion in funding to ensure that all K-12 students have adequate home internet connectivity in order to continue their education during the coronavirus pandemic.
“This funding is critical to closing the learning gap and ensuring that every student can succeed during this crisis,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The coronavirus pandemic has forced students to continue their education from home, yet millions across the country lack reliable internet access and are unable to complete their homework. Far too often these are the students already at risk of falling behind. We must fight to close the pervasive digital gap in our country so that every student – no matter their socioeconomic status or zip code – can receive a quality education. I’m proud to work with my colleagues on this bill and will continue fighting for this critical funding in the next relief package.”
Research shows the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the “homework gap” experienced by the estimated 12 million students who lack reliable internet access at home. A recent poll from the Education Trust of New York found that about 40 percent of families in New York State do not have access to an internet connected device or do not have access to reliable high speed internet at home. And, at the start of the pandemic in New York City, there were at least 300,000 students in need of an internet-connected device in order to continue learning from home. With schools expected to remain closed beyond the current school year, the Emergency Educational Connections Act of 2020 would address these inequalities and prevent students from falling further behind by ensuring they are connected.
- Provide $4 billion in federal support for elementary and secondary schools and libraries, including tribal schools and libraries, to provide Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and internet-enabled devices (as well as internet service through such equipment) to students, staff, and patrons;
- Allow schools and libraries to continue to use the equipment after the emergency period; and
- Ensure schools and libraries prioritize support for those most in need, following the guidelines of the E-Rate program.
A copy of the legislation can be found here.