Nationwide call to action this week on internet access for students

Education advocacy groups from across the nation will mount a call to action this week urging Congress to support students who don’t have home internet access (the “homework gap”). The event is tentatively scheduled for Thursday, May 7.  

KASB will offer talking points and other important information prior to the advocacy day. Members should contact Senators Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran and Representatives Roger Marshall, Steve Watkins, Sharice Davids and Ron Estes to encourage their assistance in closing the homework gap. 

The nationwide push will center around the Senate version of the Emergency Educational Connections Act, which would provide $4 billion for home broadband internet access. That’s double the amount repeatedly requested previously by KASB, NSBA and other school leaders but not provided by Congress thus far. The bill will be formally introduced in the Senate when that chamber returns to Washington, D.C. this week. The 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 virus 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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