April 02, 2020

Van Hollen, Markey, Bennet, and Schatz Lead Colleagues in Renewed Push to Ensure All Students Can Continue Education Online During Coronavirus Pandemic

U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) today led 31 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 if their schools close due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. While funding from the recently-passed Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act can be used towards these efforts, the Senators expressed their disappointment with the lack of dedicated funds in the legislation, despite their repeated call for resources for 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 addition to this letter, Senator Van Hollen has previously urged leadership to include dedicated funding for closing the homework gap within the federal coronavirus response. He has also written to the State of Maryland requesting that they allocate funds from the recently-passed CARES Act toward providing web access and devices to students. In addition, Van Hollen has introduced legislation to address this systemic issue long-term. 

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.

Also signing the letter are Senators Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Angus King (I-Maine), Bob Casey, Jr. (D-Penn.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Tom Udall (D-Utah), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).

The full text of the letter is available here