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NEA Issue Explainer

Homework Gap/Digital Divide

Too many students and educators don’t have the home internet access they need to succeed.
Kids doing remote learning
Published: 12/02/2021
This issue explainer originally appeared on

The COVID-19 pandemic shone a spotlight on a specific aspect of the digital divide known as the homework gap—the inability to do schoolwork at home due to lack of internet access. A disproportionate share of the affected students are Black, Latino/a/x , from low-income households, or live in rural areas.

The American Rescue Plan provided more than $7 billion in emergency E-Rate funding to address the homework gap—the single largest one-time investment in the program’s history.

Before the pandemic, millions of students struggled because they couldn’t go online at home. When K-12 education moved online, they were shut out of virtual classrooms. Some did schoolwork outside fast-food restaurants or lingered late at night in community centers to get internet access.

For reasons of equity and economy, NEA has long advocated for closing the homework gap via the Federal Communication Commission’s E-Rate program. And we’ve succeeded! 

Senator Ed Markey
We need to put the funding in place to ensure no student is forced to sit in a strip mall parking lot, hoping to connect to a local store’s internet in order to finish their homework.
Quote by: Sen. Ed Markey, (D-MA)
NEA President Becky Pringle
We know that access to the internet is essential for learning. No matter where students live, it is critical for conducting research, doing homework, and, when school buildings are closed, attending class

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