Along with partners across the Hoosier State, Stand for Children Indiana issued the following press release today.
INDIANAPOLIS – As the U.S. Senate majority releases its latest COVID relief package, dubbed the HEALS Act, education organizations and leaders across Indiana are telling Senators Mike Braun and Todd Young that more money is needed to support public schools in keeping children safe, as well as bridging the digital divide that leaves some students unable to learn at home.
Earlier this month, education organizations representing school districts and boards, principals, superintendents, and parents met with Sen. Young to discuss the needs and challenges for schools to effectively educate and protect children in the COVID era. A letter signed by more than 3,200 Hoosier educators and district leaders asking Sen. Young to support a meaningful federal investment in home internet connectivity was presented. Data shows more than a quarter-million Indiana students lack sufficient internet in their homes – a serious gap that will only grow more severe as schools around the state make plans to continue remote learning.
Hoosier public education groups like the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents, the Indiana Association of School Principals, the Indiana School Boards Association, the Indiana Small and Rural Schools Association and Stand for Children Indiana have combined efforts to advocate for two key provisions in the next COVID relief package:
- $200 billion in national education stabilization funds for K-12 schools, which are experiencing exploding costs as schools work to purchase health and safety equipment, as well as plan for expanding efforts to serve a greater number of children experiencing trauma and needing support.
- More than $4 billion in flexible E-rate funding allowing schools to help get students in need connected to quality home internet.
“We truly appreciate the leadership of Senators Young and Braun and their support for the first CARES act,” said J.T. Coopman, the Executive Director of the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents. “But we also want to ensure that they know the budget needs that still exist for districts, which are spending millions more on health-related equipment and supplies. Superintendents shouldn’t have to worry about future cuts to essential services for children while they pay for all that’s required now to keep kids safe in this crisis. We need more help from Washington.”
Along with school budgets being crunched, parents are struggling too. Swantella Nelson says Washington needs to step up to help families who struggle to afford quality home internet.
“If access to a great public education is an American right, then access to internet must be part of that promise,” said Nelson, pointing out that thousands of children will begin the year learning remotely in districts across Indiana.
Nelson’s now-fourth grade daughter was without internet for weeks in the spring after schools closed, which took a toll on her daughter’s learning from home.
Along with the letter signed by Hoosier educators, emails from education advocates making the case for a strong investment in home internet and education stabilization funds are being sent to both Senators Young and Braun. Supporters of increasing CARES Act funding for schools can email congressional leaders by going to protectpubliceducation.org/in.
“It is our hope that our Indiana congressional delegation can be a voice for improving the latest relief package as negotiations continue these next two weeks. Our schools and Hoosier students need and deserve an investment that truly reflects the response necessary to keep children safe and learning in this crisis,” said Indiana Public School Boards Association Executive Director Terry Spradlin.