WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) announced that Washington state schools, school districts, and libraries would receive a total $28.8 million from the Emergency Connectivity Fund Program to reimburse them for the cost of the tools and services needed for remote learning. Cantwell secured the funding as part of the American Rescue Plan which was signed into law in March 2021.
“Since the start of the COVID pandemic, students across Washington state have struggled to stay connected to their classrooms remotely. At the beginning of the 2020 school year, an estimated 280,000 school-aged children in Washington did not have broadband in their homes. The $28.8 million awarded to Washington state schools and libraries will help students from Anacortes to Cheney to Vancouver access the technology necessary for them to learn,” said Senator Cantwell.
The Emergency Connectivity Fund, created by the American Rescue Plan Act, is a $7.17 billion program to help schools and libraries support remote learning. Across the nation, over $1.2 billion was awarded in this first round of funding. The funding will help cover the cost of certain eligible equipment and services for use by students, teachers, and library patrons who lack access to broadband or devices like laptops, tablets, and computers during the pandemic.
The ten largest Washington state awardees in this round of funding are:
|Vancouver School District||$5,377,941|
|Seattle School District||$2,400,000|
|Edmonds School District||$2,086,650|
|Richland School District||$1,763,169|
|Peninsula School District||$1,579,882|
|Franklin Pierce School District||$1,408,000|
|Eastmont School District||$1,260,150|
|Moses Lake School District||$1,196,682|
|Wenatchee School District||$1,096,131|
|Auburn School District||$850,902|
The full list of awardees in Washington state can be found here.
More than a year into the coronavirus pandemic, studies indicate that as many as 12 million children around the United States still lack internet access at home and are unable to participate in online learning or complete their homework after class. These students are disproportionately from communities of color, low-income households, Tribal lands, and rural areas —a point Cantwell highlighted at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing in May 2020.
The Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction estimated that between 12% and 21% of Washington K-12 students still did not have the technology or internet connectivity required for remote learning last school year. In fall 2020, state officials estimated that only about 83% of students had consistent access to a reliable internet connection.
Senator Cantwell is a leading advocate for policies that would help close the digital divide and support students who had to abruptly transition to remote learning during the pandemic. In March 2020, in September 2020, and again in February 2021, Cantwell urged the FCC to use its existing authority and programs to facilitate at-home connectivity for students to keep up with remote schoolwork. In May 2020, Senator Cantwell introduced the Emergency Educational Connections Act to ensure all K-12 students have adequate home internet connectivity and devices.
A fact sheet on the Emergency Connectivity Fund can be found HERE.
The full list of first-round recipients can be found HERE.