April 02, 2020

Warner & Kaine Renew Push To Ensure All Students Can Continue Education Online During Coronavirus Pandemic

The current public health emergency will exacerbate a longstanding “homework gap” without immediate action by Congress

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine joined 33 of their colleagues in a letter to House and Senate leadership requesting robust funding for all K-12 students to have adequate home internet connectivity given school closures due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The Senators expressed their disappointment with the lack of such funding in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that recently passed Congress, despite their repeated call for resources dedicated to distance learning. The lawmakers urged leadership in both chambers of Congress to support $2 billion in E-Rate funding in the next coronavirus relief package for students to learn at home.

“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,” wrote the lawmakers in their letter to Senate and House leadership. “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.”

In their letter, the lawmakers specifically request 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 coronavirus pandemic has shined 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 percent 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. Without Congressional action, this existing inequity will only be exacerbated 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.

A copy of the letter can be found HERE.

Last month, Warner and Kaine called on Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to provide clear guidance for school districts and institutions of higher education, as well as families and students, following widespread school closures across the country due to the spread of the coronavirus. In their letter, they highlighted that many students cannot access online learning because they do not have a computer or internet access.

###