04-02-2020  9:56 am   •   PDX Weather    •   SEA weather  
By The Skanner News
Published: 24 March 2020

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., joined 20 of his colleagues in urging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker to support additional funding in the next version of the coronavirus relief package for all K-12 students to have adequate home internet connectivity if their schools close due to the ongoing pandemic.

“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 senators wrote. “Congress must address this issue by providing additional financial support for home internet access in the next emergency relief package so that no child falls behind in their education.”

In their letter, the lawmakers specifically request 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 highlighted the “homework gap” experienced by the 12 million students in this country who lack internet access at home and cannot complete their homework. Research has shown 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 action, this gap will continue to widen due to the high number of schools suspending in-person classes and transitioning to remote internet-based learning to protect the health of students, faculty and staff.

Joining Wyden on this letter were U.S. Sens. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Jack Reed, D-R.I., Tim Kaine, D-Va., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Mark Warner, D-Va., Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Cory Booker, D-N.J., Angus King, I-Maine, Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., Bob Casey, Jr., D-Pa., and Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev.

Full text of the letter is available below.

Dear Leader McConnell and Chairman Wicker:

We write to express our profound disappointment with the coronavirus relief package that Senate Republicans proposed today. In its current form, this legislation fails to provide sufficient 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. Simply put, we cannot bail out the airline industry to the tune of tens of billions while providing only pennies for our nation’s children.

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 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 additional financial support for home internet access in the next emergency relief package so that no child falls behind in their education.

We specifically request that you 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 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, this program offers a 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 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.

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