Digital Learning Equity Act of 2015 Introduced in the US Senate

US Senate 111th Class PhotoOn Friday, June 19, U.S. Senators Angus King (I-Maine) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.) introduced the Digital Learning Equity Act of 2015, major legislation that would support innovative ways to improve student access to the Internet and other digital learning resources outside of the classroom. SETDA did sign on as a supporter of the bill.

The Digital Learning Equity Act of 2015 aims to narrow this growing divide by supporting innovative ways to ensure students stay connected and extend access to digital learning opportunities when they leave the classroom. This bill would support states and school districts in piloting creative methods to increase student access to digital learning resources outside of the school day with the goal of increasing student, parent, and educator engagement and improving the ability of students to participate in new learning models, apply for work opportunities, and fill out college applications and financial aid forms.

The legislation also directs the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences to conduct a national study of the data associated with this growing digital divide, including information on the barriers to students having Internet access at home, how educators are adjusting classroom instruction to cope with this challenge, and how a lack of home Internet access impacts student participation and engagement.

The federal pilot program authorized under this legislation is inspired by a portable Wi-Fi initiative at the Cherryfield Public Library in Cherryfield, Maine. The “Check-out the Internet” initiative allows students to check-out a mobile Wi-Fi device to provide them with Internet access outside of school. The initiative is a public-private partnership with the New York Public Library, Maine State Library, U.S. Cellular, and Axiom Technologies with additional sites in rural Maine expected to be launched this summer. Participating students must lack Internet access at home and have a laptop or tablet issued by their school through the Maine Learning Technology Initiative, a program that was spearheaded by then-Governor King to provide laptops to every seventh and eighth grade middle school student in the State of Maine.

The legislation has been endorsed by the Alliance for Excellent Education, the American Federation of Teachers, the American Library Association, Common Sense Media, the Consortium for School Networking, the Competitive Carriers Association, Engine Advocacy, the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, the National Education Association, the State Educational Technology Directors Association, and U.S. Cellular.

Full bill: http://www.king.senate.gov/download/?id=4743E157-EFA6-4671-94BC-E21E28A438F9&inline=file

Comments from National Leaders In support of the Bill: http://www.king.senate.gov/download/?id=EB9E69AA-93D1-4D3F-A851-D0C94ABF3DAE&inline=file

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