online learning

Nicholas Garcia/Chalkbeat

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet has joined the Senate Democratic caucus in cosponsoring a bill providing $4 billion to ensure Internet connectivity for students learning remotely during the pandemic.

“Today more than ever, not having access to the internet means not having access to a classroom,” said Bennet. “Millions of kids are now falling further behind because we failed to make connecting their families a national priority. We can’t waste another day.”

The Emergency Educational Connections Act doubles the $2 billion afforded by a companion bill in the U.S. House of Representatives. The money would go to schools and libraries for the provision of wireless hot spots, equipment and devices used by students, employees and library patrons.

The Colorado Futures Center at Colorado State University estimates that there are 54,000 school-age children in the state without access to Internet, or about 6% of the public school population. Two-thirds of those children are Hispanic and half come from families earning under $50,000 per year.

Bennet’s office explained that the bill would address the “homework gap,” or the inability of children without broadband connections to do their assignments at home. The Federal Communications Commission would be in charge of regulating the allotments to public and tribal institutions. After the pandemic, those entities could keep their equipment or exchange it for upgraded technology.

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