Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) today re-introduced two bills to protect students who walk or bike to school and to improve rural students’ access to broadband and other technologies. The Safe Routes to All Schools Act is bipartisan legislation, co-led by Senator Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), to make pedestrian and bicycle safety projects targeting high school students who walk or bike to school eligible for federal support from the Department of Transportation (DOT). The bipartisan Connected Rural Schools Act, co-led by Senators Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), and John Boozman (R-Ark.) will help close the digital disconnect for rural students by ensuring that broadband and other internet accessibility technologies are eligible for funding from the existing Secure Rural Schools (SRS) Program. In addition, she co-led legislation with Senator Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.) to require the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) E-rate program to reimburse school districts that place Wi-Fi technology on school buses. The American Rescue Plan expanded the applicability for these kinds of reimbursements, and this bill would make that policy permanent.
“As we roll out COVID-19 vaccines and get students back into classrooms across the Silver State, we need to make sure they have the support and resources they need to say safe and connected. My bills will expand protections for students who walk or bike to school and improve broadband and internet access for students in rural areas. I’ll keep working across the aisle to protect our children so they can thrive and get the quality education they deserve.”
Senator Cortez Masto has consistently led efforts to protect Nevada’s students, including those in rural communities. She introduced the Renew America’s Schools Act to make critical infrastructure improvements in schools. She has also worked to support broadband access across the Silver State, including by reintroducing the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act.
The Safe Routes to All Schools Act expands the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program to include high school students as well as younger children. SRTS is a program that promotes walking and bicycling to school through infrastructure improvements, enforcement, tools, safety education, and incentives to encourage walking and bicycling to school. Nationally, 10% to 14% of car trips during morning rush hour are for school travel. SRTS initiatives improve safety and levels of physical activity for students. SRTS programs can be implemented by a department of transportation, metropolitan planning organization, local government, school district, or even a school. A national center makes extensive resources available to support bicycling and walking. Senator Cortez Masto introduced this legislation in response to more than 20 accidents involving students in Washoe County alone in 2019.
The Connected Rural Schools Act adds broadband and other internet accessibility technologies to the list of eligible items on which Secure Rural Schools (SRS) Program dollars can be spent. The SRS program provides assistance to rural counties impacted by the decline in revenue from land use activities on federal lands. This legislation is another innovative way to enable federal investment in improving broadband access for rural students.