KASB supports bill establishing statewide broadband expansion task force

KASB on Wednesday testified in support of HB 2701, which would establish a statewide broadband expansion task force. Schools and students increasingly depend on broadband internet access to deliver education and other services. 

In November 2016, Gov. Sam Brownback and Education Commissioner Randy Watson announced the launch of the Kansas Connect & Learn Initiative, a partnership between KSDE and the non-profit organization EducationSuperHighway to ensure every student and teacher in Kansas has the bandwidth they need for 21st century learning. 

The EducationSuperHigway State of the States 2017 annual report shows that while 99 percent of Kansas school districts meet the minimum connectivity goal established by the partnership, 6,200 students in four school districts (Liberal USD 480, Kismet-Plains USD 483, Weskan USD 242 and West Franklin USD 287) still need to be connected to that goal. In addition, 62 schools – mostly in rural and small-town communities, still need fiber infrastructure.  

The task force envisioned in the bill includes Commissioner Watson in its membership.  

“Lack of consistent access to high-speed internet service is frequently cited as a barrier to student learning in Kansas,” said KASB Advocacy and Outreach Specialist Leah Fliter. “Rural schools and parents report that students without reliable home internet access often drive into town to use restaurant or public library wi-fi to complete schoolwork that must be turned in online. Rural counties with large population declines expect to continue to lose Main Street businesses and battle out-migration if internet service is not improved.” 

“We believe the task force established by HB 2701 will raise awareness of the infrastructure and funding challenges that continue to hamper full internet connectivity in Kansas and stand ready to assist in this effort,” Fliter said. 

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