The GOP wants to give $105 billion to schools in the next coronavirus stimulus bill — but it's unclear whether it'll be tied to reopening
- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated that the next coronavirus stimulus package will give $105 billion to schools.
- Previously, President Donald Trump said that schools that don't reopen may lose funding, although he doesn't have the authority to enforce that without congressional approval.
- "It would be wholly irresponsible if Congress mandates that districts cannot access critical resources they need to re-open in a safe and appropriate way — such as purchasing PPE for teachers and students — unless they provide full, in-person instruction," School Superintendents Association (AASA) Advocacy Director Sasha Pudelski said in a statement to Business Insider.
- School reopening — and what it will look like — has become an increasingly hot-button issue as the start of the school year looms.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said that the next coronavirus stimulus package will focus on "kids, jobs, and healthcare" — and it "will send $105 billion so that educators have the resources they need to safely reopen." However, he did not offer details on how or if funding will be tied to physical reopening.
President Donald Trump has previously said that schools that do not reopen may lose funding, something that he cannot do without congressional approval.
But as teachers prepare wills and additional life-insurance policies in anticipation of returning to the classroom, Democrats are pushing back against funding tied to reopening.
As Politico reports, Sen. Patty Murray (D.-Wash.) said that any plan that would make funding conditional on reopening is a "non-starter."
She and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY.) introduced the Coronavirus Child Care and Education Relief Act in June, which would allocate $430 billion towards child care and education.
That bill would direct $4 billion to close the "homework gap," which, according to a new analysis from the Alliance for Excellent Education, National Urban League, UnidosUS, and the National Indian Education Association, disproportionately impacts students of color.
The report found 16.9 million children don't have internet access at home — and that is true for "one out of three Black, Latino, and American Indian/Alaska Native households."
Murray also tweeted: "We all want schools to reopen in person safely. We know parents, students, & educators all want that too — but bullying schools with one-size-fits-all demands isn't the road back to safe in-person learning & will only lead to more chaos, more infections, & would put people at risk."
—Senator Patty Murray (@PattyMurray) July 21, 2020
Politico reports that House Education and Labor Chair Bobby Scott (D-Va.) told reporters the proposed GOP funding is an "excellent start."
"We simply cannot ask, and we certainly cannot force, state and local officials to fully reopen schools if it cannot be done safely," Scott said, according to Politico.
Teachers and superintendents are also concerned
"It would be wholly irresponsible if Congress mandates that districts cannot access critical resources they need to re-open in a safe and appropriate way — such as purchasing PPE for teachers and students — unless they provide full, in-person instruction," School Superintendents Association (AASA) Advocacy Director Sasha Pudelski said in a statement to Business Insider.
"Superintendents are watching the infection rate in their communities closely and are well-aware of the value of in-person instruction for our youngest and most vulnerable students. It is reckless to threaten to withhold critical funding that districts need to re-open because district leaders will not succumb to the political and fiscal pressure to sacrifice the health of students and staff."
An analysis from AASA and the Association of School Business Officials International found that the additional cost a district may incur to reopen with new safety guidelines is $1,778,139.
And in a Colorado Education Association (CEA) survey of almost 10,000 educators, 78% of respondents said "they would be willing to join their colleagues in refusing to return to work if health and safety concerns were not addressed and protective measures not implemented."
"We've been clear with our demands to ensure the safety and well-being of students and educators during an eventual return to in-person instruction," Amie Baca-Oehlert, the president of CEA, said in a press release. "Educators should be involved not only in the creation and implementation of district plans, but also have the opportunity to vote on those plans."
Business Insider's Katie Warren reported on the debate in wealthy Orange County, California, whose board of education voted to reopen without masks or social distancing measures. That reopening plan is on hold following Gov. Gavin Newsom's declaration that counties on the coronavirus "watch list" — which includes Orange County — can't reopen in-person learning.
"It seems like schools have kind of become the new masks," Chris Brude, a teacher in Newport Beach and a father, told Warren. "A lot of the Republican leaders who were skeptical about masks are saying, 'Well, we'll wear a mask,' and Trump wore a mask a few days ago. So now it seems like the hot-button issue has become schools."
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