35 senators call for next coronavirus bill to include funding to close the homework gap

They argue for $2 billion in E-Rate funds in the next coronavirus relief bill.

Apr 3, 2020, 12:33 pm*

Tech

Andrew Wyrich 

Andrew Wyrich

Senate Coronavirus E-Rate Schools Online Learning

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A majority of Democrats in the Senate are urging congressional leadership to include funding to help close the “homework gap” in the United States as part of the next coronavirus relief bill.

A group of 35 senators wrote a letter to Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calf.) to “express our disappointment” funding for virtual schooling wasn’t included in the most recent coronavirus package and urged them to include specific funds in the next round.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

As the spread of coronavirus across the country has forced schools to turn to online instruction, it has shined a bright light on the digital divide and the “homework gap,” or the millions of students in the country who do not have access to high-speed internet. One estimate says 12 million students do not have access to adequate broadband.

Lawmakers have previously asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to use funds from the E-Rate program to help, which provides subsidies to schools and libraries for devices to get online.

In the letter to Congressional leadership, the 35 Senate Democrats argued that $2 billion in E-Rate funds should be included in the next coronavirus relief package.

“Children without connectivity are at risk of not only being unable to complete their homework during this pandemic, but being unable to continue their overall education,” the letter reads. “Congress must address this issue by providing financial support specifically dedicated to expanding home internet access in the next emergency relief package so that no child falls behind in their education.”

The senators argued that the E-Rate funds would offer an “immediate solution that may help mitigate the impact on our most vulnerable families.”

“Congress must act in light of the unprecedented disruption that the coronavirus has created for our education system,” the letter urges. “We must work now to close the homework gap and ensure that all students who need internet access have the connectivity they need to continue learning from home.”

The last coronavirus relief package only included $300 million for broadband issues, mostly for telehealth.

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*First Published: Apr 3, 2020, 12:20 pm