School District Leaders and Educators:
Congressional leaders are developing another COVID-19 relief package. Please read and co-sign the letter below by May 18 to help ensure the next pandemic relief package has sufficient funding to address the digital divide crisis.
The Honorable Lisa Murkowski
522 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
The Honorable Dan Sullivan
302 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator Murkowski and Sullivan:
An estimated 12 million students nationwide, and at least 18,800 students and many of their teachers in Alaska currently lack home internet access and, as a result, are unable to learn and provide instruction while learning has moved online during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As Alaska school district leaders and educators responsible for ensuring our students can continue to receive a quality K-12 public education during this national education emergency, we are writing to ask that you support the Emergency Educational Connections Act of 2020 to provide high-speed internet access and necessary technology to students and educators who are currently being shut out.
The Emergency Educational Connections Act would provide $4 billion in emergency funding to connect students with the internet access and devices they need to take advantage of digital learning. Alaska students need this emergency funding immediately while our school buildings remain shuttered in order to continue their studies and stay on track with more privileged peers whose homes have devices and connectivity. It is simply inexcusable that children are being forced to forego critical lessons and activities during this time due to factors entirely out of their control, including how much money their families earn and where they live.
Each school day a student is disconnected from the internet during this pandemic, it is the equivalent of missing a day of school. There are students who have, at this point, missed more than a month of instruction while their connected classmates have been able to adapt to the new normal of e-learning and continue with their education. Many students who are currently disconnected were already at a disadvantage academically prior to the COVID-19 outbreak due to socio-economic forces; now they are being shut out due to circumstances entirely out of their control.
The digital divide crisis affects rural, suburban, and urban students across Alaska and our nation. There are at least seven million families right now in communities throughout America who either cannot afford the cost of service or lack broadband service options altogether and millions of students currently lack access to appropriate devices.
To close this connectivity chasm, $4 billion in emergency funding is needed immediately to provide internet connectivity and devices for students and educators. Without this critical funding, we have no doubt millions of students will fall behind during this crisis and potentially reach a point where they can never recover from so much lost time and instruction.
Educators, school staff, parents, and family members in our districts have stepped up in remarkable ways to support students and keep them learning during this national tragedy. We ask you to do the same by ensuring $4 billion in emergency funding for internet access and devices is included in the next COVID-19 funding relief package.
The Honorable Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader
The Honorable Charles Schumer, Senate Minority Leader
The Honorable Roger Wicker, Chairman, Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
The Honorable Maria Cantwell, Ranking Member, Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation