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10/26/2020 09:38 AM
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/Legis/CSM/showMemoPublic.cfm?chamber=H&SPick=20190&cosponId=32118
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House of Representatives
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session

MEMORANDUM

Posted: July 14, 2020 01:45 PM
From: Representative Dan L. Miller and Rep. James R. Roebuck, Jr.
To: All House members
Subject: Online learning equity for students in acute poverty
 
During our initial response to the COVID-19 crisis, some school districts reopened online within two weeks, while others unfortunately needed almost a month or more to return to educating our students.

This discrepancy led to thousands and thousands of students arguably receiving less education than others. To make matters worse, this divide seems to have primarily been caused by finances. The school districts with more money for the most part opened first, and generally speaking, the school districts with less money were weeks behind.

This is unfair and unjust, and given our rather specific constitutional mandate that the state provides for the “maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education,” we believe this failure, while perhaps understandable in some degree given the nature and scope of our emergency, was still unconstitutional.

The reality is that here in the 21st century, we believe a student without access to the internet at home is not likely ready to learn, to grow, and to compete for the jobs of tomorrow.

Again, this was an emergency and no doubt in many cases a Herculean effort was made to get some school districts running online as soon as possible. But that is exactly our point. It shouldn’t take that much effort and time, and we in Harrisburg must help. While we were lucky this spring that many nonprofits and businesses generously donated thousands of computers, we believe it is unwise to continue to rely on that.

Accordingly, our bill:

1. Creates a grant program that hopefully will be funded with $100 million to make sure that our students living in acute poverty can get a computer and access to the internet 
if needed- every year.

2. Requires all school districts to design every lesson plan for possible online learning so that schools are ready to go with more flexibility.

4. Develops an annual program that assesses every student’s online learning technology needs before a problem arises.

5. Installs training requirements for students, teachers, and parents so that everyone knows how to use and learn through online learning.

6. Directs all school internet service providers to develop a program that provides internet access to students living in acute poverty access to the internet for schoolwork at no cost.

Please join us in cosponsoring this legislation so that we can take the next step in preparing our schools for any future crisis by making sure any delay in transition to distance learning is due to curriculum enhancement, and not spent trying to figure out how to get 7,000 computers donated while other districts move forward.

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Introduced as HB2705