July 26, 2021

Van Hollen, Markey, and Rep. Meng Introduce Bicameral Legislation to Close the Homework Gap, Get More Students Online

U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), and Congresswoman Grace Meng (NY-06), along with 15 additional senators and 25 House members, have introduced the Securing Universal Communications Connectivity to Ensure Students Succeed (SUCCESS) Act. This legislation will build on the Emergency Connectivity Fund that the Senators pushed to create under the American Rescue Plan and provide schools and libraries with $8 billion a year over five years – for a total of $40 billion – to continue to provide Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and internet-enabled devices to students, staff, and library patrons following the coronavirus pandemic. This legislation continues Senator Van Hollen’s efforts to get more students online, including, the Senator’s Homework Gap Trust Fund Act, which would use proceeds from the FCC’s spectrum auction to create a permanent funding source to eliminate the homework gap. The Senator serves as Chair of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee, which provides financial oversight of the FCC.

Even before the current pandemic, students without connectivity were at an educational disadvantage because they could not complete homework assignments that required internet access after leaving the classroom. The coronavirus only made this situation worse as schools shifted to online learning, leaving students without internet access unable to continue their education. Under the Emergency Educational Connections Act, a part of the American Rescue Plan, Congress provided a one-time, $7.17 billion appropriation to connect students and library patrons struggling to learn at home. The SUCCESS Act will fund crucial additional resources to ensure that the kids who are finally being connected by the Emergency Connectivity Fund are not disconnected once the original funds run dry.

A copy of the legislation can be found HERE.

“Too many students in Maryland and across our country still lack reliable internet access and face significant barriers in completing their school work. To close this gap, we must get funding straight to where it’s needed most. This legislation will build upon the crucial resources we secured within the American Rescue Plan and provide additional support directly to our schools and libraries to get more students online. I will continue working to make sure that every student in every household across our state and nation has access to reliable and affordable internet, said Senator Van Hollen.

 “Even after the coronavirus pandemic finally ends, we cannot ignore a key 21st century educational requirement -- internet access. The homework gap is an educational inequity that long predates the current emergency, and we need to put the funding in place to ensure no student is forced to sit in a strip mall parking lot, hoping to connect to a local store’s internet in order to finish their homework,” said Senator Markey. “This essential funding will build on the newly created Emergency Connectivity Fund and help ensure that the homework gap does not grow into a damaging learning and opportunity gap following the pandemic for our children, particularly those who live in communities of color, low-income households, and rural areas.”

“During the COVID-19 crisis, we have seen how crucial internet access has been for learning and completing assignments, and as our nation works to move past the pandemic, we must use this opportunity to help all students get online,” said Congresswoman Meng. “Increasing internet access is a vital issue that I have been proud to champion with Senator Markey, and fighting for the $7 billion that was included in the American Rescue Plan was a great victory. But more must be done to build on this critical down payment. As the mother of two young children, I know firsthand how crucial this is. Each and every student must have the tools they need to succeed in school, and the SUCCESS Act is an essential component to permanently closing the homework gap. I urge all of my colleagues in both chambers to help close this digital divide by supporting our effort to secure additional funding for schools and libraries."

The bill is also cosponsored by U.S. Senators Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Christopher Murphy (D-Conn.), and U.S. Representatives Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE), Tony Cárdenas (CA-29), Judy Chu (CA-27), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Jesús G. “Chuy” García (IL-04), Raúl Grijalva (AZ-03), Jahana Hayes (CT-05), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12), Betty McCollum (MN-04), Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Mark Pocan (WI-02), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Bobby Rush (IL-01), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Abigail D. Spanberger (VA-07), Thomas R Suozzi (NY-03), Ritchie Torres (NY-15), Nydia M. Velázquez (NY-07), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Peter Welch (VT), and Frederica S. Wilson (FL-24).

“The Homework Gap is the cruelest part of the digital divide.  The pandemic has made it crystal clear that too many students are unable to complete their school assignments because they do not have Internet access at home.  This means they fall behind in the classroom—and we all lose out when we have a generation ill-prepared to enter a 21st century economy.  Thank you to Senators Markey and Van Hollen and Representative Meng for their leadership and continued commitment to closing the Homework Gap,” said Jessica Rosenworcel, Acting FCC Chairwoman. 

“All students — no matter where they’re from, where they live or what they look like — deserve access to the tools and resources that will help them be successful in school and in life. Yet too many students, especially those in rural areas, students living in poverty, and Native and communities of color, do not have affordable access to the internet,” said Becky Pringle, President, National Education Association. “The COVID-19 pandemic exposed and exacerbated the inequities of our education system like Internet connectivity. And while the American Rescue Plan helped provide vital funding to the E-rate program, the gaps in equity still exist for our most vulnerable students. That’s why the National Education Association supports the Success Act, which would provide $8 billion a year over five years to continue closing the Digital Divide. We thank Senators Markey and Van Hollen and Congresswoman Meng for their leadership in helping students have the Internet access they need to fully participate in their learning and prepare for a bright future.”

“We applaud Senator Markey, Senator Van Hollen and Representative Meng for their sustained commitment to closing the Homework Gap and for introducing their bill to extend vital funding for closing the student digital divide,” said James P. Steyer, Founder and CEO, Common Sense.  “The Emergency Connectivity Fund approved by Congress in March provides community institutions like schools and libraries the resources they need to help close the digital divide. Every student in the country deserves to have a robust internet connection for learning from home, and every school should have the resources they need to ensure their students are fully connected - whether at school or at home. Extending funding the Emergency Connectivity Fund is a critical step that Common Sense fully supports.”

“Nearly 18 months after the COVID-19 pandemic shone a bright light on the far-reaching reality of the homework gap and the more than 12 million students it left unable to reliably access remote learning, the SUCCESS Act is a clear path forward,” said Dan Domenech, Executive Director, AASA, The School Superintendents Association.  “While the E-Rate program was transformative in helping ensure schools and classrooms were connected, and the Emergency Connectivity Fund within the American Rescue Plan built on the proven track record of E-Rate to help schools support connectivity for students and staff during the pandemic, the SUCCESS Act represents a common-sense approach to a persistent problem: inadequate access to affordable internet, to ensure our 24-hour learners have 24-hour access. The SUCCESS Act ensures that schools and libraries can keep providing Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and internet-enabled devices. As we emerge from the pandemic and continue to safely reopen schools, the SUCCESS Act helps support the ongoing, critical continued need of internet access to help students access and engage in learning. AASA commends Senators Markey and Van Hollen and Representative Meng for their leadership on this issue, and we are proud to support the SUCCESS Act.”

“We have made monumental strides with the $7.17 billion that the American Rescue Plan Act furnished to connect students and educators who lack a home Internet access connection, a computer or both,” said Ernest Logan, President, American Federation of School Administrators.  “However, we simply cannot place our schools in the position of having to cut off that access – which allows students to attend online courses, complete homework and research, and apply for jobs, college, and government services – when that money runs dry. AFSA applauds the prescient introduction of the SUCCESS Act, authored by Senators Ed Markey and Chris Van Hollen and Rep. Grace Meng, as it will preserve the gains made in narrowing the homework gap and provide sustainable medium-term funding to keep our kids and educators connected to learning and each other. We will work hard with our educator allies to get this bill across the finish line.”

“Since the dial-up days, libraries across the country have stood in the digital gaps to connect our communities, especially for those most vulnerable,” said Patty Wong, President, American Library Association. “Today’s libraries are committed to improving internet access and providing the digital literacy support essential to advancing educational and economic opportunity for all. The promise of the SUCCESS Act means more libraries will have access to critical funding to sustain or initiate broadband equity programs through the Emergency Connectivity Fund. ALA looks forward to swift passage of this important legislation.”

“Even before the coronavirus pandemic, millions of students and library patrons without home broadband were locked out of the 21st century - a problem too complex to solve through temporary programs,” said John Windhausen, Jr.,  Executive Director, Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition.  “SHLB applauds Senators Markey and Van Hollen and Congresswoman Meng for their continued pursuit of a long-term solution to the digital divide with the introduction of the SUCCESS Act today. This new bill provides important multi-year funding for schools and libraries to extend the reach of broadband to their communities.  Senators Markey and Van Hollen, Congresswoman Meng, and their co-sponsors are to be commended for recognizing the critical role of anchor institutions in connecting everyone to the internet”

“Equipping students and staff with sustainable home broadband access remains a top priority for school districts across the country,” said Keith Krueger, CEO, Consortium for School Networking (COSN).  “COSN commends Senators Markey and Van Hollen and Congresswoman Meng and the bill’s co-sponsors for fighting hard to replenish the FCC’s Emergency Connectivity Fund.”

“Closing the homework gap, which affects 1 in 3 Black, Latino, and American Indian/Alaska Native families, ensures that households can access the Internet now and into the future,” said Deborah Delisle, President and CEO, Alliance for Excellent Education. “While the funding provided by Congress through the American Rescue Plan for the Emergency Connectivity Fund is much-needed relief, we need to ensure this boost continues so students and educators can make strides in accessing essential resources needed to get back on track — and stay on track — after more than a year of disrupted learning. It would be cruel to close the homework gap next year, only to let it open again. I applaud Senators Markey and Van Hollen and Congresswoman Meng for introducing this legislation to continue funding the Emergency Connectivity Fund and call on Congress to pass it so that students get what they need to thrive. Our students and educators deserve nothing less.”

“Libraries and schools have proven repeatedly that they are essential to reducing the digital divide,” said Angela Siefer, Executive Director of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance. “The SUCCESS Act provides the resources necessary to build on the experience of libraries and schools providing home connectivity, computers and digital literacy support.”

Endorsers of the SUCCESS Act include: AASA, the School Superintendents Association, Advance CTE, Alliance for Excellent Education, American Federation of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, American Library Association, American Psychological Association, Association for Career and Technical Education, Association of Educational Service Agencies, Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents, Association of School Business Officials International, Children’s Health Fund, Common Sense Media, Consortium for School Networking, Council for Exceptional Children, Council of Administrators of Special Education, Council of Chief State School Officers, Education Reform Now, The Education Trust, Family Centered Treatment Foundation, Girls Inc., International Society for Technology in Education, Khan Academy, KIPP, Joint National Committee for Languages, Learning Forward, Magnet Schools of America, MENTOR, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of Federally Impacted Schools, National Association of Independent Schools, National Association of School Psychologists, National Association of Secondary School Principals, National Association of State Directors of Special Education, National Catholic Educational Association, National Center for Families Learning, National Council for Languages and International Studies, National Digital Inclusion Alliance, National Education Association, National Rural Education Advocacy Consortium, National Rural Education Association, National School Boards Association, Parents as Teachers, Project Tomorrow, Public Advocacy for Kids, Schools Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition, State Educational Technology Directors Association, and Teach for America.