Federal Proposals to Fund Remote Learning

May 15, 2020

Due to the pandemic, this spring schools nationwide transformed their traditional brick and mortar education to remote learning, much of which is being conducted online.  This feat was and will continue to be incredibly challenging, considering an estimated 7 million students nationwide lack internet access at home.  In order to provide support for schools (and libraries) to help with this transition, there are several proposals introduced at the federal level that would provide funding for remote learning, each a little different than the other.

On Wednesday, the House HEROES bill was introduced that would provide $1.5 billion to schools to help close the digital divide.  Senator Markey has introduced a companion, stand-alone bill in the Senate that provides $4 billion for the same purpose.

In addition, this week the SHLB Coalition, along with the State E-rate Coordinators’ Alliance (SECA) and Funds for Learning (FFL) unveiled their “E-rate to the Home” remote learning proposal that goes further than the House or Senate bill.  I know many of you have become aware of this proposal through word of mouth, and have signed SHLB’s letter supporting the proposal (170 PA schools/libraries signed as of yesterday morning).  The proposal would:

  • Establish a one-time $5.25 Billion fund within the FCC for –
  • Purchase of broadband network equipment to extend school and library networks to student homes
  • Schools’ purchase of Internet connected devices for teachers and students
  • Schools’ payment of installation and monthly recurring costs for Internet to homes of students and teachers
  • Cybersecurity protections including filtering for schools and libraries
  • Establish district-based funding caps for allocating money (no decision on how those caps will be calculated)
  • Use existing E-rate discount matrix
  • Require a 14-day rapid review application process and a 15-day invoice approval process (which will allow for discounted billing or BEAR process)
  • Allow for payment or reimbursement of purchases of eligible items from 3/13/2020 through 9/30/2021
  • Exempt applicants from using E-rate competitive bidding requirements

More information on this effort, including a summary of the bill and the sign-on letter, is at https://www.shlb.org/policy/E-rate/to-the-home.  If you are interested in supporting this effort, they are asking the letter be signed by 5:00 today (Friday, May 15).

I will provide updates as I receive them on any of these proposals.

Stay safe, E-raters!

– Julie

Julie Tritt Schell
Pennsylvania E-rate Coordinator
717-730-7133 – o



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