The GOP's new stimulus package ties two-thirds of school funding to reopening

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  • The GOP has unveiled the "HEALS Act," its new coronavirus stimulus package, which would allocate $105 billion towards education.
  • K-12 education would receive $70 billion — but two-thirds of that would be tied to reopening.
  • Local educational agencies must submit reopening plans to their state's governor and get approval to receive funding; schools that offer nothing in-person wouldn't be eligible.
  • Additionally, the "SAFE TO WORK Act" would give schools protection from legal liability.

The GOP has unveiled the "HEALS Act," its new coronavirus stimulus package, and, as expected, it would allocate $105 billion in funding to education — with $70 billion going to K-12 education.

But two-thirds of that $70 billion in funding is targeted towards helping schools reopen. The funding would only be available once local agencies submit and have a reopening plan approved by their state's governor.

The bill says that any local educational agency that has in-person instruction for at least 50% of students, where "the students physically attend school no less than 50% of each school-week," would have their plans automatically approved.Advertisement

Schools with no in-person instruction would not be eligible for this funding. Districts including San Diego and Los Angeles have already announced that their classes will remain remote at least for the start of the fall. In addition, schools would receive protection from legal liability.

Since April, Republicans have called for liability waivers for businesses and schools while advocating economic and educational reopening. The surge in reported coronavirus infections beginning in late June threatened reopening plans and underscored the need for another stimulus bill.

"Small and large businesses, schools, colleges and universities, religious, philanthropic and other nonprofit institutions, and local government agencies confront the risk of a tidal wave of lawsuits accusing them of exposing employees, customers, students, and worshipers to coronavirus," says the text of the "SAFE TO WORK Act."
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Previously, Democrats had pushed back against the idea of funding tied to reopening.

According to Politico, Sen. Patty Murray (D.-Wash.) said that any plan that would make funding conditional on reopening is a "non-starter." In June, she introduced a bill with Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) in June that would allocate $430 billion to child care and education. In May, the House passed the "HEROES Act," which allocates $915 billion in emergency funding for state and local governments, and over $100 billion to child care and education. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called that act a "big laundry list of pet priorities." Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden called for additional funding for schools when he released his school reopening plan, roughly two months after the HEROES Act was passed.Advertisement

And School Superintendents Association (AASA) Advocacy Director Sasha Pudelski said in a previous statement to Business Insider: "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."

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