KASB releases video on national call to action Thursday addressing `homework gap’

KASB has prepared a short video tutorial to help our members participate in a national call-to-action Thursday to close the “homework gap. 

The advocacy push is centered around urging U.S. Senators to support the Emergency Educational Connections Act, which would provide $4 billion for home broadband internet access, and to include it in the next federal stimulus bill.  

KASB members should contact Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran on Thursday to urge them to back the legislation. The phrase “homework gap” refers to the inequity in broadband internet access among school-aged children. 

KASB Advocacy and Outreach Specialist Leah Fliter has prepared a six-minute video tutorial to guide members through how to contact Roberts and Moran. The video includes talking points on the homework gap, how it affects Kansas students, and some suggestions for personalizing your message. The video also walks viewers through the process of effectively contacting Roberts and Moran by phone or email. 

“Members tell me they are sometimes reluctant to contact their members of Congress because they don’t know if their voice will be heard or they’re unsure about the best way to communicate their advocacy message,” Fliter said. The `Contacting U.S. Senators About the Homework Gap video offers the information educational leaders need to engage on this important issue.” 

The $4 billion in the Senate legislation is double the amount requested previously by KASB, NSBA and other school leaders but not provided by Congress thus far. The bill will soon be formally introduced in the Senate by Sens. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, Michael Bennet of Colorado, Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire. Similar legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives in April but provides $2 billion in funds rather than $4 billion. 

NSBA and the broad coalition of educational advocates working to close the homework gap support the $4 billion figure because of anticipated increased costs associated with summer learning and the possibility of a return to online learning if the coronavirus resurfaces in the fall. 

The Emergency Educational Connections Act also gives the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) the authority to administer the funds through the  ERate program and allow the Commission to authorize the use of some existing ERate funds (which are raised through the Universal Service Fund surcharge on telephone bills) to improve home internet connectivity.   

The National Center for Education Statistics estimates 14 percent of school-aged children didn’t have home internet access in 2017 and Kansas was slightly below that national rate; based on those statistics, 70,000 Kansas K-12 students lack access. The gap between internet “haves” and “have-nots” (“the homework gap”) is particularly acute in rural areas without coverage or in high-poverty areas where families can’t afford service. 

With schools, public libraries, universities, churches, and other internet-equipped public buildings also closed, the homework gap is even wider for students who do not have internet access at home. 

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