It’s become increasingly clear that schools and libraries are unlikely to return to full operation this fall. Without immediate financial assistance, this will be devastating for the 7 million families who cannot afford broadband access for online learning at home.
Yesterday, the SHLB Coalition, SECA, and Funds For Learning joined 1,935 individuals and organizations in asking Congress to introduce and enact the "Remote Learning During COVID-19 Act
." This draft legislation would fund broadband connectivity, Internet-enabled devices and cybersecurity for students and educators in need.
The "Remote Learning During COVID-19 Act" would appropriate a one-time amount of $5.25 billion for schools and libraries to use until the end of 2021, ensuring that learners are not shut off from their education.
The funding would be administered by the FCC as a special program and would allow schools and libraries to choose the best technology for their local needs. The funding would be vendor-neutral and provider-neutral.
The proposal would use a budget approach to ensure fiscal integrity and would expedite the flow of funding to schools and libraries. We are hoping this legislation will have bi-partisan support and can be enacted this summer.
In addition to SHLB, SECA, and Funds for Learning, several national organizations such as the American Library Association, New America's Open Technology Institute, the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, and Public Knowledge support this bill, along with hundreds of school and library organizations around the country.
In some school districts, 20 percent to 80 percent of students do not have access to high-speed broadband internet at home, which raises constitutional “equal protection” concerns. It’s our responsibility to protect educational equity and keep students connected wherever learning might happen.