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July 16, 2015

King Helps Close Homework Gap in Education Reform Bill

King amendment will support innovative efforts like those in Washington County

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) announced today that his amendment, inspired by an innovative educational initiative in Washington County, Maine, has been approved by the Senate.

The Senate this morning unanimously approved the amendment offered by Senator King that would help close the homework gap and provide students across the country with access to Internet and other digital learning tools outside of the classroom. The amendment is based in part on the Digital Learning Equity Act of 2015, introduced by Senator King Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.) in June.

“Just because the school day ends doesn’t mean that access to the Internet has to too. As we have seen in Cherryfield, Maine, implementing innovative strategies to bring the Internet to students outside of the classroom can give them a chance at success they may not have had otherwise,” Senator King said. “With the passage of my amendment today, school districts across the country will be able to take advantage of federal funding to help close the homework gap that is hampering student achievement, and ensure that our students have access to the vital digital learning resources they need in today’s interconnected world.”

Nearly one-third of low-income households with school-age children lack a high-speed Internet connection, which seriously limits access to educational opportunities and new learning tools essential for students to be successful. This divide, also referred to as the homework gap, disproportionately impacts minority students as well as those in rural states like Maine, where high-speed Internet connections are not always accessible or affordable.

Senator King’s amendment to the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA), a major education reform bill under consideration by the Senate, ensures that digital services or devices that help students access the Internet outside of the school day, like mobile hotspots, are eligible for technology funding under the bill’s I-TECH program. Mobile hotspots are already making a difference for students in Cherryfield, Maine, where a partnership between the Cherryfield Public Library, the New York Public Library, the Maine State Library, U.S. Cellular, and Axiom Technologies has launched the “Check Out the Internet” initiative to allow students to check out a mobile Wi-Fi device to provide them with Internet access outside of school. Senator King’s amendment could help facilitate more projects like this around the country.

The Senate also unanimously passed a separate King amendment yesterday that would commission a study on the state of student access to the Internet and digital learning resources at home. This study, to be conducted by the Institute of Education Sciences at the Department of Education, would provide policy makers and education professionals with a clearer picture of the digital learning landscape and the ways that home access to digital learning resources – or lack thereof– can affect student performance and participation. The study would also report on promising efforts, like those in Cherryfield, to close the homework gap.

The ECAA is a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which was last reauthorized in 2002 as the No Child Left Behind Act, which seeks to make critical reforms to address the overly prescriptive approach and unrealistic goals of No Child Left Behind. Introduced in June, Senator King’s Digital Learning Equity Act has been endorsed by numerous organizations.


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