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Senate Dems Seek Big E-Rate Boost

Senate Democrats plan to double down, literally, on a planned House investment in distance education given what looks like a longer break from physical school during the pandemic. 

Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) plan to introduce a companion bill to the Emergency Educational Connections Act, introduced in the House, but with one change: They are increasing the House's $2 billion appropriation for ensuring K-12 students have access to home internet connectivity and devices during the pandemic to $4 billion. 

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The money would come from the FCC's E-Rate schools and libraries subsidy--under a program that Markey was a driving force behind.  

The senators said that was because the House bill anticipated they need only through the end of this academic year, while in the interim more educators "have come to realize the crisis will last far longer."   

That announcement came the same day the federal government planned to lift stay-at-home guidelines (April 30) and the governor of California was signaling its schools might reopen in July, with social distancing. 

“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,” the senators said in a joint statement. “Given the magnitude of this pandemic and its effects on teaching, we must increase our investment beyond $2 billion to $4 billion. 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.”