Senators Markey, Van Hollen, Bennet, Hassan, and Colleagues Plan to Introduce Legislation to Direct $4 Billion in E-Rate Funds to Close Growing Learning Gap in Coronavirus Pandemic
Senators cite rising need for funds due to pandemic, increase their funding proposal from $2 to $4 billion
Washington (April 30, 2020) – Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) today announced that they plan to increase their request in upcoming legislation aimed at ensuring all K-12 students have adequate home internet connectivity and devices during the coronavirus pandemic. The Senators previously announced their intention to introduce the Senate companion to legislation, the Emergency Educational Connections Act, recently introduced by Congresswoman Grace Meng (NY-06) in the House of Representatives. The Senators plan to introduce companion legislation, but will make one important change: increasing the appropriation from $2 billion to $4 billion. Education groups had originally identified the $2 billion figure believing the crisis would last only through this academic year. As more educators have come to realize the crisis will last far longer, need has only increased.
“The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated our existing ‘homework gap’ and spurred a growing ‘learning gap’ that will have a lasting impact on America’s children,” said the Senators in a joint statement. “Given the magnitude of this pandemic and its effects on teaching, we must increase our investment beyond $2 billion to $4 billion. Our students come first, and we cannot allow any of them to fall behind as a result of this crisis. We are proud to enjoy the support of more than 50 organizations that focus every day on educating and protecting our nation’s youth.”
A copy of the legislation can be found HERE.
The coronavirus pandemic has shone a bright light on the “homework gap” experienced by the estimated 12 million students in this country who do not have internet access at home and are unable to complete their homework. Before the outbreak of the coronavirus an estimated 70 percent of educators assign schoolwork that requires internet access. That number has undoubtedly increased in recent weeks. Without Congressional action, this existing inequity will only be exacerbated by the high number of schools that are suspending in-person classes and have transitioned to remote learning over the internet to protect the health of students, faculty, and staff.
Senator Markey is the author of the original E-Rate program, which was created as a part of the 1996 Telecommunications Act. Since the program began, more than $52 billion has been committed nationwide to provide internet access for schools and libraries. As a result, the E-Rate program is, and has been for over two decades, an essential source of funding to connect the nation’s schools and libraries to the internet. As the coronavirus pandemic develops, the E-Rate program offers an immediate solution that may help mitigate the impact on our most vulnerable families. Additional funding for E-Rate would greatly narrow the homework gap during the current crisis and help ensure that all students can continue to learn.
The Emergency Educational Connections Act is supported by the following organizations: AASA The School Superintendents Association, Advance CTE, Alliance for Excellent Education, American Federation of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, AFLCIO, American Library Association, American Psychological Association, American School Counselor Association, ASCD, Association for Career and Technical Education, Association of Educational Service Agencies, Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO), Children's Health Fund, Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), Committee for Children, Common Sense Media, CoSN - Consortium for School Networking, Council for Exceptional Children, Council of Administrators of Special Education, Family Centered Treatment Foundation, First Focus Campaign for Children, Girls Inc., IDEA Public Schools, International Society for Technology in Education, KIPP Foundation, Learning Forward, Magnet Schools of America, MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership, National Association for Music Education, National Association of Counties (NACo), National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of Federally Impacted Schools (NAFIS), National Association of Independent Schools, National Association of School Psychologists, National Association of Secondary School Principals, National Association of State Boards of Education, National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE), National Catholic Educational Association, National Center for Families Learning, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), National Education Association, National Forum to Accelerate, Middle-Grades Reform, National Rural Education Advocacy Consortium, National Rural Education Association, National School Boards Association (NSBA), Parents as Teachers, Project Tomorrow, Public Advocacy for Kids (PAK), SETDA (State Educational Technology Directors Association), Stand for Children, Teach For America, and The Education Trust.