Balancing E-Rate Funding and Social Media Access in Schools


Congress is currently deliberating changes to the E-rate program, and one proposal has raised eyebrows: requiring schools to ban social media access over their networks as a condition for receiving E-rate funding.

While the intention—to protect children from social media risks—is commendable, we have reservations about using the E-rate program as a lever to address this issue. The proposed legislation introduces ambiguity and uncertainty, potentially affecting funding for schools and libraries.

Here’s the situation: Senator Schatz (D-HI) introduced the Healthy Kids Act, aiming to prevent social media platforms from allowing children to set up their own accounts—an eminently reasonable goal. Simultaneously, Senator Cruz (R-TX) proposed the Eyes on the Board Act, modeled after the Children’s Internet Protection Act. This act would require schools to certify plans for blocking social media access to qualify for E-rate funding.

Recently, the two Senators merged their bills into the Kids Off Social Media Act (KOSMA). This comprehensive legislation also mandates that schools and libraries establish screen time policies.

However, there’s a glaring omission: neither SHLB nor other school/library organizations were consulted before this legislative move. Despite the lack of support from these stakeholders, the Senators pushed to include KOSMA in the mark-up agenda, even without prior hearings.

To be honest, we share concerns about social media’s impact on children’s health. However, we firmly believe that social media policies should be set by local school authorities. These authorities can tailor their policies to suit the unique needs of their communities. For instance:

  • Emergency Notifications: Schools may want to use social media to notify students and parents during emergencies, such as school shootings or tornadoes.

  • Educational Opportunities: Journalism teachers may leverage social media to train students in responsible usage.

Federal intervention risks circumventing community-level decisions regarding appropriate social media use. That’s why we joined forces with the American Library Association (ALA), the Coalition for School Networking (CoSN), and the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) to express our opposition.

We hope Senators take the time to thoroughly understand the implications of this legislation before rushing to pass it through the Senate.