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Players Coalition urges Senate to pass educational relief package

As the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues to directly affect the lives of millions in America, professional athletes are banding together to plead to lawmakers to lessen the effect on the nation's children.

The Players Coalition submitted a letter signed by 196 former and current professional athletes to Senate leadership Friday urging them to pass a COVID-19 relief package that includes "crucial education provisions" for the nation's youth.

"We, the undersigned members of the Players Coalition, recognize the systemic racism and injustice evident in PreK-to-12 education inequities -- by income, race, and their intersection -- present before the COVID crisis and exacerbated and ever more apparent as this crisis has unfolded," the letter reads.

The group pointed out two major factors -- state and local funding inadequacy and disparities, and the digital divide -- that it believes "are likely to be compounded in the coming year and beyond as state and local budgets deteriorate because of increased state and local COVID-related costs and steeply declining revenues due to COVID-related economic disruption."

The unlikelihood of widespread vaccine availability before 2021 and the resulting social distancing requirements may mean remote learning will have to continue, increasing the chances for the divide to further and the inequities to be compounded, according to the Players Coalition. Because of that, the Coalition urged the Senate to pass a package with "significant additional funding for elementary and secondary education, targeted towards the students with the greatest challenges, without any weakening of legal protections for marginalized students or any requirements that run counter to student, teacher and public health."

The group also demanded the Senate legislation "fully address the digital divide for students by establishing an Emergency Benefit for Broadband Service, expanding E-Rate program funding for schools and libraries to purchase digital access equipment for students and teachers, and enhancing Lifeline benefits and eligibility."

Friday is not the first time a large group of professional athletes has banded together under the Players Coalition to submit a message to lawmakers urging them to improve the state of the nation in a time of crisis. In early June, the Coalition submitted a letter to Congress supporting passage of a bill that would end qualified immunity for police officers and other government officials.

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