The National School Boards Association is calling on the House of Representatives to advance legislation, H.R. 6563, to expand internet access for students.
H.R. 6563 would create a $2 billion “Emergency Connectivity Fund” for schools and libraries to secure Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers and connected devices. It would support distance and remote learning for “millions of students without home internet access” for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency, according to NSBA.
The program would be administered through the Federal Communications Commission’s E-rate program.
In an April 22 letter, a coalition of more than 50 education organizations, including NSBA, cited the E-rate program’s “successful equity-based 22-year history of keeping public and private schools and public libraries connected to the internet.” The correspondence was addressed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and New Jersey Congressman Frank Pallone, chairman of the energy and commerce committee, among others.
The coalition pointed to recent reports show the “digital divide” or “homework gap” in states as economically diverse as Mississippi and Massachusetts.
“This inequity among students who have internet at home and those who don’t have kept several million students from participating in their education as it has moved online,” states the group’s letter.
H.R. 6563 is sponsored by U.S. Rep. Grace Meng of New York.