Broadband and education go hand in hand. That is nothing new for us. As an industry, we’ve been singing the praises of broadband’s impact on educational opportunities for years.
For those living in rural Tennessee, broadband provides unlimited access to virtual classrooms and distance learning. And during the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been the life force connecting students to their classrooms. But that’s just the beginning.
State lawmakers convened last month for Gov. Bill Lee’s Special Session on Education in an attempt to help schools navigate the pandemic. In the joint conference, Gov. Lee targeted three primary areas of concern: literacy, learning loss, and state assessments.
According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, only about 34% of Tennessee third grade students read proficiently at grade level, which studies show drastically increases their risk of dropping out of high school, incarceration, and experiencing poverty as an adult.
Combined with that, Gov. Lee said preliminary data indicates a 50% drop in reading proficiency and a 65% drop in math proficiency resulting from COVID-19 school closures through the summer months.
The General Assembly increased the education budget by $100 million to set up foundational literacy skills instruction for K-3 students as well as to develop and implement after-school and summer education camps to combat learning loss.
In a perfect world, students will be available for in-person learning, but until we return to normal, broadband remains the clear solution to keep kids reading and learning throughout the summer or anytime they are unable to be in class.
We know this, and so do state leaders. We continue working closely to promote funding for rural broadband expansion and to make sure all Tennessee students have equal access to the educational resources and opportunities needed to be successful.