Illinois’ Senatorial delegation is working to bridge the Internet gap for students in the nation. Democratic Senators Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin are co-sponsors on the Emergency Educational Connections Act that would appropriate $4 billion in federal money to ensure that K-12 students would have adequate home Internet connectivity and devices during the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
The funding would provide support for elementary and secondary schools and libraries, including tribal schools and libraries, to provide Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and Internet-enabled devices as well as Internet service through such equipment to students, staff, and patrons. It would also allow for schools and libraries to continue to use the equipment after the pandemic is over. Students who have the most need would be prioritized following the guidelines of the E-Rate program.
The bill is being supported by over 50 national education and early childhood-focused organizations around the nation. Duckworth said that homeschooling her 5-year old has helped her understand the importance of having a reliable Internet connection for school, and she does not wish underprivileged children to fall behind, creating a “homework gap” between students. Durbin said it’s a way to close the digital divide and providing equal opportunity to success for all students during the challenging times.
The House companion bill, House Resolution H.R. 6563 was introduced on April 21st and sponsored by Democratic Congresswoman Grace Meng of New York. The Senate Bill was introduced yesterday in committee. Neither have been brought to the floor for a vote as Congress is working on a new economic stimulus bill.