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February 10, 2013

More information:     Megan Howard, Legislative Aide

                                 Fred Clarke, Legislative Aide

Mt. Vernon, Virginia – Delegate Scott Surovell (D-44) and Delegate Kaye Kory (D-38) applauded recent action taken by the House Committee on Science and Technology and the House Appropriations Committee addressing the digital divide in Virginia’s school systems.

Delegates Surovell and Kory both introduced legislation concerning the deployment of electronic learning systems in our school systems despite inadequate ownership of home computers and broadband access for Virginia’s low income and rural students and no action to overcome this digital divide. 

At the hearing Delegate Surovell’s HB1915 and Delegate Kory’s HB2286, three Fairfax County students testified – Cameron Coleman of Carl Sandburg Intermediate School, Alanna Brown of Lake Braddock Secondary School, and Felisa Aguilar of Glasgow Middle School.  The testimony of Cameron Coleman and Alanna Brown are attached.  

The legislation was tabled with a recommendation for the legislation to be studied by the Joint Commission on Technology and Science and the Virginia Broadband Commission.  Delegate Kathy Byron, chairman of the House Committee on Science and Technology, last week wrote the Joint Commission on Technology and Science concerned about the lack of quantifiable data related to the current extent of Internet service in homes throughout the Commonwealth. Delegate Byron went on to request that JCOTS study the issue and further examine school locality’s electronic textbooks policies.  Her letter is attached.

Delegate Kory said, “Electronic textbooks should not be used in public schools unless access is universal. Data on current access across the Commonwealth is the key to ensuring equity for all public school students, urban and rural regardless of income.”

Additionally, on Sunday, the House of Delegates Appropriations Committee approved a budget amendment requiring school systems to report on how many children have access to broadband and computers in their home pursuant to a budget at the request of Delegate Surovell.  

 Delegate Surovell said, “If implemented, this would allow us to have the data necessary to address the “digital divide” in our schools – urban, suburban, and rural – that I attempted to address with my legislation addressing online textbooks. Electronic textbooks hurt low-income and rural students the most when they are most in need. Our school systems need to find a way to actively deal with this issue so that children in the most challenged schools can have fair and equal access to the benefits of digital learning.”

Delegate Surovell had one other budget amendment be approved by the House Appropriations Committee which restores a Fairfax County General District Court judgeship along with three House bills crossover to Senate.