FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 28, 2020
Contact: Jonathon Dworkin, 202-660-1340 x5
NewDEAL Forum Urges Immediate Broadband Access Funding from Congress
Co-chairs of Forum’s Education Policy Group stress alarming learning loss for students without access to high-speed home internet
Washington, D.C. – Emphasizing that COVID-19 has the potential to set-back an entire generation of children if policymakers do not take immediate and aggressive action on broadband access, Mayor Christopher Cabaldon (West Sacramento, CA) and Senator Elena Parent (Atlanta, GA) wrote to Congressional Leaders of both parties today advocating $6.8 billion in the next COVID-19 relief package to give students nationwide the opportunity to participate in virtual learning as many schools are expected to remain closed this fall. Full text of the letter is below.
Cabaldon and Parent co-chair the NewDEAL Forum Education Policy Group, which brings together innovative state and local officials with policy experts to develop proposals for improving college and career readiness among high school graduates. The Group recently convened a discussion with FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel to address solutions state and local officials can pursue for what the Commissioner calls the “Homework Gap” — the learning gap between students with and without home internet access.
The $6.8 billion recommendation is in line with the need outlined in a report released last week by the Alliance for Excellent Education, National Indian Education Association, National Urban League, and UnidosUS. In addition, the letter from Cabaldon and Parent calls for inclusion in the COVID-19 relief bill of proposals from the Emergency Educational Connections Act. That legislation would require the FCC to support schools in purchasing telecommunications equipment or services (e.g., Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, and routers) for students and staff to use outside of school buildings. (The current E-Rate program is limited to funding broadband at schools and libraries.) Priority must be given to students, staff, or patrons who do not have access to such equipment or services.
“The state and local officials with whom we work, in our communities and in urban, suburban, and rural areas across the country, are on the front lines of the crisis caused by the digital divide,” write Cabaldon and Parent, who are members of the Forum’s sister organizations, the NewDEAL, a network of 180 of the most innovative state and local elected leaders around the country. “We are all committed to working with our school systems to identify the extent of broadband needs as well as support solutions to bring fiber-optic cables and connected devices to our most vulnerable students. However, as states and cities hemorrhage revenue, our impact is limited without federal funding. Therefore, we respectfully ask you to provide $6.8 billion to the E-rate program to address these needs.”
The letter highlights the report published by the Alliance for Excellent Education and its allies, which finds that one in three Black, Latino, and American Indian/Alaska Native families do not have the high-speed home internet necessary to support online learning. Across all racial and ethnic groups, 16.9 million children fall into this “Homework Gap” nationwide. Other national data suggest that only 60 percent of low-income, and 60 to 70 percent of Black and Hispanic students, logged in regularly to their online classes. For their more affluent peers, the number was close to 90 percent.
“Asking students—many of whom are from low-income or rural homes—to try to learn with a family member’s cell phone or with paper packets is neither acceptable nor sustainable. We need Congress to demonstrate their concern for all students’ learning by providing $6.8 billion in critical funding in the next stimulus legislation for internet and computer access for all students, no matter where they live,” said All4Ed president and CEO Deborah Delisle. “The federal government has an historic opportunity to ensure millions of students get what they need to be successful this fall and beyond. What we offer to our students tells them what it is we value. This is our time to show we care.”
Students who were already behind will be even further behind when school resumes. The research organization NWEA estimates some students may lose as much as a full year of learning.
Below is the full text of the letter to Senate Majority Leader MItch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. You can find more information about the goals of the NewDEAL Forum Education Policy Group at this link.
About the NewDEAL Forum
The NewDEAL Forum is a Washington-DC based non-profit organization which identifies and promotes innovative, future-oriented state and local pro-growth progressive policies that can improve the lives of all Americans. By facilitating the identification and spread of policy ideas, the NewDEAL Forum seeks to foster economic growth, reduce barriers to opportunity, and promote good government in communities, cities, and states throughout the country.
Letter to Congress from NewDEAL Forum Education Policy Group Co-chairs
Dear Madame Speaker, Majority Leader McConnell, Minority Leader McCarthy, and Minority Leader Schumer:
As schools work to reopen for the 2020-2021 school year, it is vital for all students and educators to have high-speed home internet and devices so they can effectively participate in online learning. As co-chairs of a group of elected officials and policy experts focused on improving college and career readiness, we have recognized that broadband access is one of the most important education issues that must be addressed in response to COVID-19.
The state and local officials with whom we work, in our communities and in urban, suburban, and rural areas across the country, are on the front lines of the crisis caused by the digital divide. We are all committed to working with our school systems to identify the extent of broadband needs as well as support solutions to bring fiber-optic cables and connected devices to our most vulnerable students. However, as states and cities hemorrhage revenue, our impact is limited without federal funding. Therefore, we respectfully ask you to provide $6.8 billion to the E-rate program to address these needs.
COVID-19 has caused the largest disruption to public education ever faced by our nation. There are many uncertainties surrounding the 2020-2021 school year; however, it is clear that many students will receive their education, at least in part, through online learning. A recent analysis from the Alliance for Excellent Education, National Indian Education Association, National Urban League, and UnidosUS shows that one in three Black, Latino, and American Indian/Alaska Native families do not have the high-speed home internet necessary to support online learning. Across all racial and ethnic groups, 16.9 million children fall into this “Homework Gap” nationwide.
The learning loss caused by COVID-19 has the potential to set-back an entire generation of children if we do not take immediate and aggressive action. The Emergency Educational Connections Act has been introduced in both the House and the Senate to address the Homework Gap. We urge you to include this legislation and appropriate at least $6.8 billion through the E-rate program in the COVID-19 relief package currently under negotiation in Congress.
COVID-19 did not create the Homework Gap. However, we must address this challenge with an even greater sense of urgency because of the pandemic. By appropriating $6.8 billion through the E-rate program, Congress can ensure communities have the resources to deliver students the education they need and deserve.
Mayor, West Sacramento, CA
Co-Chair, NewDEAL Forum Education Policy Group
Senator, Atlanta, GA
Co-Chair, NewDEAL Forum Education Policy Group