Myself and 34 other U.S. Senators write to express our disappointment with the lack of funding dedicated for distance learning in the third Corona Virus relief package that recently passed Congress.
We have repeatedly called for concrete funding to help ensure tha tall 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 Corona Virus 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 Corona Virus 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 worsened 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 Corona Virus 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 continue to learn.
Congress must act in light of the unprecedented disruption that the Corona Virus 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.
U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley
…and 34 other U.S. Senators including Oregon U.S. Senator Ron Wyden