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Bipartisan Digital Equity Act of 2021 Introduced Today in the Senate

Bipartisan Digital Equity Act of 2021 Introduced Today in the Senate

This morning Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rob Portman (R-OH) are introducing a bill that promotes a five-year federal investment in digital equity.

The Digital Equity Act of 2021 strengthens federal support for efforts to help ensure students, families, and workers have the information technology capacity needed to fully participate in society by establishing two grant programs to be administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to promote digital equity nationwide:

  • Building Capacity within States through Formula Grants: The legislation creates an annual $125 million formula grant program for all 50 States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico to fund the creation and implementation of comprehensive digital equity plans in each State.
  • Spurring Targeted Action through Competitive Grants: The legislation also creates an annual $125 million competitive grant program to support digital equity projects undertaken by individual groups, coalitions, and/or communities of interest.
  • Supporting Research and Evidence-Based Policymaking: The legislation tasks NTIA with evaluating digital inclusion projects and providing policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels with detailed information about which projects are most effective.

Read an article on the legislation by @DavidIngram on @NBCNews.

Senator Murray first introduced the Digital Equity Act in 2019 to help improve broadband adoption and bridge the digital divide. During the 2020 election, this bill was included in then-candidate Biden’s broadband platform. Earlier this year, President Biden also unveiled his American Jobs Plan, which includes a $100 billion investment to build high-speed broadband infrastructure to reach 100 percent coverage, promote transparency and competition, reduce the cost of broadband internet service and promote more widespread adoption. Senators Murray and Portman will be advocating for key provisions of the bipartisan Digital Equity Act to be included in any forthcoming infrastructure package.

#DigitalEquityNow

Bipartisan Support for Adult Education Research

Bipartisan Support for Adult Education Research

On Wednesday afternoon (April 14), Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and Senator Todd Young (R-IN) introduced the bipartisan Strengthening Research in Adult Education Act (S. 1126). According to Senator Reed’s introductory statement, the Act

will amend the Education Sciences Reform Act to require the Institute for Education Sciences and the National Center for Education Statistics to collect data and carry out research on: successful state and local adult education and literacy activities, the characteristics and academic achievement of adult learners, and access to and opportunity for adult education, including digital literacy skills development, in communities across the country. It will also ensure that the Institute of Education Sciences draws on the expertise of adult educators when developing policies and priorities. Finally, the legislation would require that at least one research center would focus on adult education.

You can read Senator Reed’s full introductory statement HERE. The full text of the Act itself is not yet available.

The Strengthening Research in Adult Education Act puts forward critical initiatives that will strengthen adult education greatly if the legislation is passed. The National Coalition for Literacy and its member organizations deeply appreciate the work that Senator Reed and Senator Young are doing to promote federal support for adult education.

Literacy to Leadership

Literacy to Leadership

Literacy to Leadership: Policies That Promote Adult Student Success was the focus of a Congressional briefing presented by NCL, VALUEUSA, and ProLiteracy on April 14, 2021. The briefing illustrated the power of adult education to transform lives and build the strength and resilience of communities.

The briefing opened with introductory remarks from three Congressional champions of adult education:

Briefing panelists included adults who have taken alternative education paths and are now leaders in the field, as well as practitioners with extensive knowledge of the role of policy in promoting high-quality adult education programs. 

  • Kim R. Ford, President and CEO, Martha’s Table, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary and Acting Assistant Secretary in the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education
  • Rachel DeVaughan, Ph.D., Deputy Executive Director, Programs at Mississippi Community College Board
  • Carlos Vasquez, Instructor, Catholic Charities of New Mexico
  • HollyAnn Fresa-Moore, Principal, Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School
  • Marty Finsterbusch, Executive Director, VALUEUSA

Recordings of the full briefing and the individual panelists’ presentations are available through the links below.

Full Briefing


Kim R. Ford


Rachel DeVaughan


Carlos Vasquez


HollyAnn Freso-Moore


Marty Finsterbusch

Congratulations!

Congratulations!

Today the National Coalition for Literacy celebrates the inauguration of President Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. and Vice President Kamala Devi Harris! 

Throughout his career, President Biden has been a consistent advocate for adult education, most notably in his promotion of adult career pathways innovation in the White House report Ready to Work: Job-Driven Training and American Opportunity that accompanied the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act authorization in 2014. In that report he spoke of adult education programs as “particularly important to those hardest hit by the twists and turns of global competition, technological changes, economic isolation, or inadequate education opportunities.”

As the Biden Administration begins to address the economic fallout of the global pandemic and the systemic inequities that it has both revealed and exacerbated, adult education will continue to play a pivotal role. Adult education programs seek to counteract systemic inequities in education that disproportionately affect Black, Brown, Indigenous, and immigrant/refugee community members by providing instruction in foundational literacy and numeracy skills, high school equivalency, and workforce/college readiness. As recent Survey of Adult Skills data shows, in the United States, 19 percent of adults are profoundly in need of literacy skills development and 29 percent lack critical numeracy skills. These adults are overrepresented in communities of color—the same communities that have been most adversely affected by the COVID-induced health and economic challenges that are rooted in systemic inequity.

Adult education in the United States has deep roots in social justice efforts that recognize and promote literacy and learning as central to access, voice, and action for all. The very first adult schools – Massachusetts in 1842; California in 1856 – were community-level efforts focused on immigrant integration through English language and civics instruction, and basic literacy for adults with limited formal education. During the civil rights protests of the 1960s, a federal investment in adult education was recommended as one strategy for mitigating the effects of structural and systemic racism. Over the decades since then, adult education has continued its mission of opening the doors to economic opportunity and full participation in society through education. While the recent Survey of Adult Skills data demonstrates the persistence of inequities, the power of adult education to address them and promote social justice is documented in studies such as The Case for Investment in Adult Education. As the Education Strategy Group has noted, “education holds the key to economic revitalization and must play a central role in addressing systemic inequities.”

During the months of the pandemic, adult education programs have turned to remote teaching to continue providing services. Yet this instruction has been inaccessible to many in adult education’s learner population due to limitations on digital access in rural and low-income areas of the country. Educational inclusion and digital inclusion now go hand in hand, and adult education’s ability to counter the effects of educational inequity and systemic racism increasingly depend on complementary investments in digital infrastructure and access to internet-enabled devices and digital skills instruction.

In states and communities across the country, adult education’s power lies in its ability to meet the moment and rise to the challenge. The National Coalition for Literacy welcomes President Biden and Vice President Harris and encourages them to build on the nation’s commitment to educational equity by recognizing adult education’s critical work, investing in it, and rewarding it.

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