***** For Immediate Release*****
More Information: Legislative Aide, Megan Howard
Richmond, VA Delegate Scott A. Surovell (D‐44) introduced legislation today that would ensure school systems take meaningful steps to help students overcome the digital divide when using electronic textbook programs. House Bill 1915, the Access to Electronic Textbooks Act, would require school systems to make sure that every student in the local school division has access to a computing device and access to broadband internet service in his or her residence before allowing a school system can implement an online textbook program in Virginia.
Delegate Surovell, whose district is home to some of largest concentrations of low income and migrant communities in Fairfax County and Northern Virginia, continues to be concerned with the achievement gap across the Commonwealth. “If standards for deployment of electronic textbooks are not adopted, I fear that electronic textbooks will be deployed in a fashion that prejudices kids without access to technology at home,” stated Del. Surovell. “I am not against electronic textbooks. My daughter is using one for 6th Grade math right now and they are quite useful.” Surovell added, “But I know the children in the most challenged schools in my district don’t have a prayer of being able to access that kind of thing in their apartment or trailer. This is also a problem from Tazewell, to Norfolk, and all over Virginia. We cannot keep sticking out head in the sand.”
When asked about potential fiscal impacts of the legislation on increasingly burdened localities, Surovell stated, “School systems will argue that they cannot afford to give digital access and computers to every student. My legislation does not require that. It requires school systems to take measures to ensure every child in the system has fair and equal access to the benefits of digital learning. Internet accessibility at home is critical to being able to take full advantage of online learning systems if our schools are going to continue to modernize our educational process,” Surovell stated. Comcast has already rolled out their “Internet Essentials Program” (www.internetsessentials.com) which provides no activation or installation fees, a computer purchase for $149.99, and broadband for
$9.99/mo. to families that qualify for free and reduced lunch programs. Cox Communications has plans to roll out an identical program in Fairfax County last this year.
“Local school systems across Virginia have refused to help distribute information about low cost broadband programs to student’s families. We are never going to close the digital divide if school
systems do not help make information about low cost broadband and computers available to all Virginia students,” said Delegate Surovell.
As of 2011, over 25% of students were qualified for free and reduced lunch in the Fairfax CountyPublic School system. Fairfax County adopted an electronic textbooks program late last year. The free and reduced lunch population of schools in the 44th District is reflected in the chart below and averages 48.9%.
The bill is available online at: http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?131+sum+HB1915