Digital Learning Equity Act would close homework gap

Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) introduced the Digital Learning Equity Act (HR-3582), a bipartisan bill that aims to increase out-of-school access to digital learning resources. Cosponsored by Rep. David McKinley (R-WV), the legislation is badly needed.

As teachers across the country increasingly assign homework that requires the Internet, students without access are being left behind. In towns where libraries close early, students like those in Citronelle, AL and Harrison, MI gather around laptops and other devices in nearby fast-food restaurants because those are the few places with free Wi-Fi service.

Federal Communications Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel joined Rep. Welch at a middle school in Burlington, Vermont to discuss the homework gap, which she called “the cruelest part of the new digital divide,” and the importance of closing it: “Today, too many students are unable to complete their school assignments because they do not have Internet access at home. This means they fall behind in the classroom – and we all lose out when we have a generation ill-prepared to enter the digital economy.”

Education groups, including the American Library Association and both national teachers’ unions -- the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association -- voiced their support for the legislation in a letter to the Chair and Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where the bill was referred. “The Digital Learning Equity Act of 2015,” they wrote, “will help provide students and their families with equitable access to the Internet at home to support family engagement in their child’s education and will allow students to accomplish essential tasks such as completing their homework, applying for colleges and seeking post-graduation employment.”

A Senate version of the bill (S. 1606) was introduced in June by Sen. Angus King (I-ME).

The Digital Learning Equity Act of 2015 (US House of Representatives, Sept. 18, 2015)

The Web-Deprived Study at McDonald’s (Wall Street Journal, Jan. 28, 2013)

Statement of Commissioner Rosenworcel Regarding Introduction of Digital Learning Equity Act (FCC, Sept. 22, 2015)

Letter Supporting the Digital Learning Equity Act of 2015 (National School Boards Association, Sept. 18, 2015)

The Digital Learning Equity Act of 2015 (US Senate, June 18, 2015)