Reaching Out to Members of Congress Talking Points
Over the next two-to-three weeks, Congress will be considering a third wave of COVID-19 funding relief that will total $1.9 trillion and likely include:
- $130 billion in additional funding for K-12 schools, which can be used for a multitude of purposes including cleaning/sanitizing schools, PPE and professional learning, and
- $7 billion for devices, hotspots, and Internet access services to connect the upwards of 12 million students who lack Internet connectivity in their homes (termed the Homework Gap).
I support immediate passage of Budget Reconciliation bill without any changes to the education funding provisions.
I urge members of Congress to oppose amendments that would:
- Reduce the amount of funding available for K-12 COVID-19 relief or Homework Gap support.
- Attach conditions on schools or school districts spending the money.
The Need for $130 billion for K-12 Education Relief:
- K-12 schools rely on state and local funding for the vast majority of their budgets.
- 26 states have sustained revenue declines in the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic; 5 states have seen their revenues fall by 10% or more.
- According to the Washington Post: “Across all states, cuts to education spending make up almost all of the job losses. On the local level, public education accounted for just over half of job losses.”
- For schools to reopen safely and continue to operate they will need federal funds to replace the loss of state and local revenues.
- The proposed $130 billion in K-12 COVID-19 relief would provide broad-based support to K-12 schools, including:
- Coordinated COVID-19 response
- Addressing learning loss
- Professional learning
- Supplies to sanitize and clean schools
- Providing meals to low-income students
- Providing mental health services
- Summer and supplemental after school learning
- School facility repairs to reduce risk of virus transmission
The Need for $7 billion for Homework Gap Support:
- Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the homework gap was experienced by up to 16 million K-12 students who couldn’t finish their schoolwork from home because they lacked internet access or an appropriate computing device. According to Pew Research:
- 37% of rural Americans do not have broadband internet access at home
- 35% of students from households with annual incomes below $30,000 do not have access to high-speed internet at home
- 25% of African-American households and 23% of Hispanic households with school-age children do not have access to high-speed internet at home
- Since the pandemic began, some progress has been made on bridging the homework gap but much work remains to be done. According to Common Sense Media:
- “Up to 12 million K–12 students remain under-connected going into 2021 due to limitations of poor broadband mapping data, current infrastructure, and supply chains, insufficient marketing and adoption support, and inadequate funding.”
- Permanently closing this gap will require between $6 billion and $11 billion in the first year and between $4 billion and $8 billion annually thereafter, to address affordability and adoption gaps.
- Closing the digital divide for teachers will cost approximately $1 billion in its first year.”
- The Budget Reconciliation bill would:
- Provide $7 billion to public and private schools and public libraries to purchase Internet access and connected devices (including hotspots, routers, modems, and computers) for students, educators, and library patrons who lack home Internet access, a connected device, or both.
- Schools and libraries would be reimbursed for 100% of the costs associated with the eligible services and equipment. The FCC, which would administer the program, is empowered to determine whether requests for discount are reasonable, thereby preventing gold-plated requests.
- This funding would flow to and be distributed via the existing E-Rate program mechanism, but would operate separate and apart from the existing E-Rate program.