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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Democrats want a $7.6 billion fund to help schools and libraries pay for students' distance learning costs as part of the latest COVID-19 relief package.

Why it matters: Despite some progress, an estimated 12 million students lack sufficient internet or the devices necessary to participate in virtual learning while schools are closed during the pandemic.

Details: Late Tuesday, House Energy & Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone announced the provision as part of the committee's legislative recommendations for the COVID budget reconciliation legislation.

  • The provision would establish a $7.6 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund for schools and libraries to pay for internet service, hotspots and other devices for students and teachers to use the internet at home.
  • The Federal Communications Commission would be tasked with implementing the fund.

What's next: E&C will mark up the recommendations Thursday.

Go deeper

Feb 9, 2021 - Podcasts

The digital gap in remote learning

We’re a year into virtual schools — but the digital divide when it comes to our students still hasn’t been fixed. Consider this: 12 million students in this country don’t have internet access or the proper devices needed to do school online.

As some schools start to reopen for in-person classes, there's a danger that the digital divide will again be ignored.

  • Plus, former President Trump’s second impeachment trial begins.
  • And, how a showdown over real estate commission could upend the industry.

White House sets target for Biden's plan to reopen schools

Photo: Pete Marovich/The New York Times/Bloomberg via Getty Images

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a briefing Tuesday that President Biden's goal to reopen most schools means reopening over 50% of schools for "some teaching" in person "at least one day a week." But they wouldn't necessarily fully reopen.

Why it matters: The White House's shift in language suggests Biden's original timeline was not realistic, as infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci noted earlier this month.

Feb 9, 2021 - Podcasts

Teachers union president Randi Weingarten on reopening schools

Three-quarters of America’s K-12 public schools are either closed or partially closed right now. Even if the White House manages to open up the vaccine bottlenecks and get a new economic stimulus passed with money for in-school COVID-19 testing and HVAC updates, ultimately, schools being open or closed comes down to negotiations between local school departments and their teachers unions.

Axios Re:Cap digs into those negotiations, what will happen this semester once teachers have vaccination access and what next fall could look like with American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten.