Senate Democrats to introduce bill boosting funding for student internet access

Senate Democrats to introduce bill boosting funding for student internet access
© Greg Nash

Four Senate Democrats on Thursday announced their intentions to introduce legislation aimed at ensuring that K-12 students have access to the internet amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has forced schools across the country to pivot to online learning. 

The Emergency Educational Connections Act would create a special $4 billion fund for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to disburse to schools and libraries to buy Wi-Fi hotspots, routers and internet-connected devices.

The legislation will be introduced by Sens. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyOVERNIGHT ENERGY: New documents show EPA rolled back mileage standards despite staff, WH concerns | Land management bureau grants 75 royalty rate cuts for oil and gas | EPA employees allege leadership interference with science in watchdog survey EPA's Wheeler grilled by Democrats over environmental rollbacks amid COVID-19 Markey says EPA administrator should apologize to minorities for coronavirus response MORE (D-Mass.), Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenSenate Dems press DOJ over coronavirus safety precautions in juvenile detention centers Lawmakers urge Trump to cancel DC's July 4 event: 'Impossible to put on safely' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Mnuchin: More COVID-19 congressional action ahead MORE (D-Md.), Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetSenate Democrat introduces bill to protect food supply Congress headed toward unemployment showdown Fight emerges over unemployment benefits in next relief bill MORE (D-Colo.) and Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanSenators ask DeVos to adjust FAFSA form due to the coronavirus pandemic The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump spotted wearing a face mask Sen. Shaheen tells Biden campaign she does not want to be vetted for VP MORE (D-N.H.) when the Senate returns to Washington next week.

ADVERTISEMENT

The bill will act as companion legislation Rep. Grace MengGrace MengDe Blasio, John Cho, Rep. Grace Meng unite for event to fight racism against Asian Americans NY Democrats call for mortgage forgiveness in next coronavirus relief bill Hillicon Valley: Experts worry U.S. elections vulnerable due to COVID-19 | Report finds states need more federal election funds | Republican senators to introduce coronavirus-related privacy bill MORE's (D-N.Y.) proposal in the House earlier this month, with the change of increasing the appropriation from $2 billion to $4 billion.

“The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated our existing ‘homework gap’ and spurred a growing ‘learning gap’ that will have a lasting impact on America’s children,” said the senators in a joint statement Thursday.

“Given the magnitude of this pandemic and its effects on teaching, we must increase our investment beyond $2 billion to $4 billion," they continued. "Our students come first, and we cannot allow any of them to fall behind as a result of this crisis. We are proud to enjoy the support of more than 50 organizations that focus every day on educating and protecting our nation’s youth.”

The legislation comes as schools across the country remain shuttered in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

That has moved many classes online, highlighting the millions of students in American who do not have internet access at home.

The so-called digital divide affects students every week, but has gained added importance and attention with the school closures.