Arizona Organizations Call On Senators Sinema and Kelly To Extend the Emergency Connectivity Fund
If not extended, funding for the program will be exhausted this month, stalling progress for the estimated 15 million students in the K-12 digital divide.
PHOENIX (October 12, 2021) — Seventeen Arizona-based technology, education, health care and child advocacy groups are calling on U.S. Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly to support funding for a key program to keep Arizona students connected to education from home.
In a letter sent to the state's two senators, the groups call for the inclusion of at least $4 billion in funding to extend the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) in the Build Back Better budget reconciliation package currently being debated in Congress. Common Sense research estimates that nearly 30% of students and 10% of teachers in the state fall into the K-12 digital divide, lacking adequate access to internet service and devices needed to engage in remote learning. Without additional funding for ECF, many of these students will remain in the digital divide, which disproportionately impacts families of color and low-income households. Already, schools and libraries in Arizona have requested over $200 million from the ECF, a program signed into law in March.
"Stopgap measures to curb the K-12 digital divide during (the pandemic) have been helpful, and we appreciate your support for those efforts," the groups wrote. "But we need to do more. Now is the moment to ensure that every student and family in Arizona is able to connect from home to 21st century learning, health care and jobs."
The ECF is a critical program for schools and libraries working to support students struggling to access education due to the digital divide. Today, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) has announced approvals for over $74 million in funding applications for ECF in Arizona but that only represents 37% of the more than $200 million in requested funds thus far. Total requests from Arizona are expected to increase as schools and libraries are still applying for funding.
Authorized by Congress as part of the American Rescue Plan, the ECF provides money to help connect students, staff and library patrons who lack the home internet access and devices they need to engage with digital curriculum. The program provides K-12 schools and libraries with funding for the purchase of home internet service, computers, hotspots, routers and modems. Without additional funding the ECF is on pace to exhaust it's funds by the end of October.
The letter to Senators Sinema and Kelly was organized by Common Sense Media's Arizona office and is co-signed by ALL In Education, Arizona Center for Economic Progress, Arizona School Administrators Association, Arizona Technology Council, Care1st Health Plan, Children's Action Alliance, Cox Communications, Honest Arizona, Local First, Mi Familia Vota, Protect Young Eyes, Rural Arizona Action, School Connect, Southwest Human Development, Sun Corridor Network, Valley of the Sun United Way and Wildfire: Igniting Community Action to End Poverty in Arizona.
Read the letter here.
About Common Sense
Common Sense is the nation's leading nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in the 21st century. Learn more at commonsense.org.
Ilana Lowery, Arizona Director
Lorena Taboas, Manager, Media Relations