04-02-20 U.S. Senator Bennet, Markey, Van Hollen, Schatz Lead Colleagues in Renewed Push to Ensure All Students Can Continue Education Online During Coronavirus Pandemic

Bennet, Markey, Van Hollen, Schatz Lead Colleagues in Renewed Push to Ensure All Students Can Continue Education Online During Coronavirus Pandemic

The Current Public Health Emergency Will Exacerbate a Longstanding “Homework Gap” Without Immediate Action by Congress

Denver – Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, along with U.S. Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), led 31 of their colleagues in a letter to Senate and House leadership requesting robust funding for all K-12 students to have adequate home internet connectivity if their schools close due to the ongoing Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. The senators expressed their disappointment with the lack of such funding in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that recently passed Congress, despite their repeated call for resources dedicated to distance learning. The lawmakers urged leadership in both chambers of Congress to support $2 billion in E-Rate funding in the next coronavirus relief package for students to learn at home.

“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,” wrote Bennet and his colleagues in their letter to Senate and House leadership. “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.”

In their letter, the senators specifically requested at least $2 billion in E-Rate funds for schools and libraries to provide Wi-Fi hotspots or other devices with Wi-Fi capability to students without adequate connectivity at their home.

The coronavirus pandemic has shined a bright light on the “homework gap” experienced by the 12 million students in this country who do not have internet access at home and are unable to complete their homework — at a time when more than 70 percent of educators assign schoolwork that requires internet access. Research has shown that the homework gap affects students in both rural and urban areas and disproportionately affects lower-income students and students of color. Students without internet access at home consistently score lower in reading, math, and science. 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.

As a former Superintendent of the Denver Public Schools and as a U.S. Senator, Bennet has fought to reduce inequities, including the homework gap, that keep all students from achieving their full potential. Recently, Bennet and his colleagues wrote letters to both the Federal Communications Commission and Senate leaders calling for immediate action to close the homework gap during the coronavirus outbreak. Bennet also called on the nation’s top internet service providers to take extraordinary measures to maintain and expand online connectivity during the pandemic for students and families.

In addition to Bennet, Markey, Van Hollen, and Schatz, the letter was also signed by U.S. Senators Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Angus King (I-Maine), Bob Casey, Jr. (D-Pa.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Tom Udall (D-Utah), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).

The full text of the letter is available HERE and below.

Dear Leader McConnell, Speaker Pelosi, Leader Schumer, and Leader McCarthy:

We write to express our disappointment with the lack of funding dedicated for distance learning in the third coronavirus relief package that recently passed Congress. We have repeatedly called for concrete funding to help ensure that all K-12 students have adequate home internet connectivity if their schools close due to the ongoing pandemic. We believe that Congress must provide robust resources for these purposes, in order to guarantee that all children are able to continue their education during the current public health emergency. We request that the next coronavirus relief package include at least $2 billion in E-Rate funds for schools and libraries to provide Wi-Fi hotspots or other devices with Wi-Fi capability to students without adequate connectivity at their home.

The coronavirus pandemic has shone a bright light on the “homework gap” experienced by the 12 million students in this country who do not have internet access at home and are unable to complete their homework — at a time when more than 70% of educators assign schoolwork that requires internet access. Research has shown that the homework gap affects students in both rural and urban areas and disproportionately affects lower-income students and students of color. Students without internet access at home consistently score lower in reading, math, and science.

We are very concerned that 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. 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. 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.

We believe providing funds to the E-Rate program is the best way to help students continue their education at home. 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 2 pandemic develops, this program offers an immediate solution that may help mitigate the impact on our most vulnerable families. We believe 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.

Congress must act in light of the unprecedented disruption that the coronavirus has created for our education system. 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.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. Due to the closure of many Senate offices during the coronavirus outbreak, physical signatures are unavailable. The listed senators have asked to be signatories to this letter.

Sincerely,

SOURCE