NAESP Supports Emergency Education Connections Act
This legislation is aimed at ensuring all K-12 students have adequate home internet connectivity and devices during the coronavirus pandemic.
The coronavirus pandemic has shone a bright light on the homework gap for the experienced by the 12 million students in this country who do not have home internet access. Even before the current crisis, students living in poverty and in rural communities faced significant challenges with finishing their schoolwork from home because of broadband accessibility issues. The current long-term school closures have only elevated these inequities: Without access to the internet, students in low-income families and those living in rural areas are unable to participate in remote learning and are now falling further behind.
That’s why, On May 12, 2020, a group of 39 U.S. senators led by Sens. Edward J. Markey, Charles Schumer, Maria Cantwell, and Chris Van Hollen, Michael Bennet, Maggie Hassan, and Brian Schatz introduced the Emergency Educational Connections Act. This legislation is aimed at ensuring all K-12 students have adequate home internet connectivity and devices during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Current long-term school closures due to the coronavirus pandemic have only heightened the urgency to address the inequities of the homework gap, experienced by 12 million students in low-income families and those living in rural areas,” said Dr. L. Earl Franks, CAE, Executive Director, National Association of Elementary School Principals. “It’s simply unconscionable that because these students lack access to the internet they are being deprived of learning opportunities and are falling behind their peers. The $4 billion boost in E-Rate funds provided in the Emergency Educational Connections Act would go a long way to ensure significantly more students across the country get connected to the internet. The National Association of Elementary School Principals strongly supports this legislation and appreciates the leadership of Senators Markey, Van Hollen, Hassan, Bennet, Schumer, Cantwell, and Schatz on this issue of critical importance for principals.”
Specifically, the Emergency Educational Connections Act would:
- Provide $4 billion in federal support for elementary and secondary schools and libraries, including tribal schools and libraries, to provide Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and internet-enabled devices (as well as internet service through such equipment) to students, staff, and patrons;
- Allow schools and libraries to continue to use the equipment after the emergency period; and
- Ensure schools and libraries prioritize support for those most in need, following the guidelines of the E-Rate program.
The E-Rate program, which was created as a part of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, has been—and should continue to be—an essential source of funding to connect the nation’s schools and libraries to the internet. Since the E-Rate began nearly two decades ago, more than $52 billion has been committed nationwide to provide internet access for schools and libraries.
As the coronavirus pandemic develops, the E-Rate program offers an immediate solution that might help mitigate the impact on our most vulnerable families. 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.