On August 20, 2020, Next Century Cities addressed state lawmakers from across the country on a ‘Future Now’ panel to describe how states and municipalities are tackling the homework gap during the COVID-19 pandemic. The “homework gap” refers to approximately 17 million students who are struggling with access to broadband. Aside from being unable to participate in online learning programs, these students are among those facing poverty, food insecurity, unstable housing, and limited access to health care.
Executive Director Francella Ochillo explained why any state legislative solutions must provide resources and remove obstacles for locally-owned broadband infrastructure. Further, both state and local governments must provide ongoing support for community-based partnerships that increase broadband adoption.
Massachusetts Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz described the importance of building coalitions with a variety of stakeholders, “Coalition. Coalition. Coalition. Everyone must be involved in leading the movement.” She also reiterated the importance of getting an accurate count, via census or otherwise, of how many students are in need.
North Carolina General Assembly Representative Ashton Clemmons described the ongoing tension between state and municipal governments. “As state funding contracts there is an increased reliance on municipalities to generate solutions.”
Thousands of school districts were unprepared to transition online when COVID-19 forced them to close. NCC’s advocacy highlights the many reasons why federal and state resources must be paired with local stopgap remedies.