We are writing today in support of the Broadband Equity Commission language that was put forward by both Chairwoman Peisch and Chairman Lewis as an amendment to the respective House and Senate Budgets and was included in the Conference Committee budget for your consideration. Given, the deep impact the digital divide has had on students and families, we respectfully ask that you preserve the language that was unanimously approved in the final budget.
In response to the pressing need to address digital equity for students and families, the Broadband Equity Commission will:
1. Convene a fully representative and diverse group of stakeholders to execute the work of the commission
7. Work towards deepening the Commonwealth’s understanding of the impact the digital divide is having on students and families and produce timely recommendations for the consideration of legislative leaders.
We strongly believe that this proactive approach to addressing the digital divide will help us ensure that all students in the Commonwealth continue to receive an equitable education throughout the duration of the pandemic and beyond. In recognition of the possibility the pandemic may impact our student learning for many years, this proactive approach of establishing the Broadband Equity Commission will aid in planning and coordination of our response to student and family needs in our gateway and rural communities.
Collectively, we acknowledge that there have been substantive efforts made by the legislature, DESE, and local districts to mitigate the worst impacts of the pandemic on student learning. However, establishing the Broadband Equity Commission is another important step as it will provide the Commonwealth with another opportunity to work with key stakeholders to put forward well-researched policy and practice recommendations that would fundamentally improve the social determinants of education and health for all students and families. The future of our children, workforce, economy, and the Commonwealth depend on our ability to provide equitable access to broadband and all the services dependent on internet connectivity.
Your consideration of the Broadband Equity Commission will allow us to collectively better serve our most vulnerable students and families across the Commonwealth, and to work towards viable and equitable solutions to close the digital divide. We have included attached a copy of the conference committee language for your convenience.
It is for these reasons that we humbly urge you as Governor to support the Conference Committee Budget language for the Broadband Equity Commission. We thank you and your staff for your consideration of this important proposal.