January 28, 2016
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today at a workforce event held in the Senate, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) renewed his call to bridge the digital divide for rural and low-income students so that the next generation of American workers has access to critical digital learning tools, both in the classroom and at home.
“More and more students in America today don’t have reliable Internet access at home, and not only does that set them back as they pursue their education, it also puts our workforce at a disadvantage in a global economy that is increasingly dependent on digital literacy,” said Senator King. “This problem – often referred to as the homework gap – is one of the most pressing education and workforce issues we face today, and it is particularly prevalent in rural and lower-income areas where students are already at a greater risk of being left behind. The major education reform bill we passed in 2015 made important strides forward in closing the homework gap, but we cannot let our foot off the gas now. We have a responsibility to give students in rural Maine and across the country the opportunities and skills they need to succeed in today’s digital world.”
Today’s event was titled, “U.S. Competitiveness and the Future of Work,” and was hosted by the Council on Competitiveness and the Senate Competitiveness Caucus. Caucus co-founder Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) asked Senator King to address the audience about his work to close the so-called “homework gap” and ensure that technology is effectively infused into K-12 classrooms.
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.
In 2015, Senator King led an effort with Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.) to ensure that the newly reauthorized Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) allows states and school districts to spend federal education technology dollars on devices that provide Internet outside of the school day, like mobile hotspots. The Senators were also able to ensure that the new law devotes resources toward greater data collection around the homework gap so that policymakers can make informed decisions in the future about closing this divide. Both of these provisions in the education reform legislation were drawn from the Senators’ Digital Learning Equity Act of 2015.
The Senate Competitiveness Caucus, of which Senator King is a member, seeks to foster greater awareness and understanding of issues critical to U.S. economic growth. The caucus was co-founded by Senators Coons and Jerry Moran (R-Kansas).
The Council on Competitiveness is a non-profit organization made up of CEOs, University and College Presidents, National Laboratory Directors, and National Labor Leaders who are committed to identifying and advocating for policies that enhance U.S. competitiveness and raise the standard of living for all Americans.