Coronavirus crisis threatens education funding
An economic downturn that could rival the Great Depression is upon us—and threatening the ability of state and local governments to fund public education and other essential services. Costs are up as the nation struggles to contain COVID-19 and cope with dramatically rising unemployment—in the last five weeks, 26.5 million Americans have lost their jobs. Tax revenues are declining as consumers stop spending on virtually everything except groceries and Netflix subscriptions. The non-partisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says FY2021 could be the worst year EVER for state budget shortfalls.
To address the looming crisis, NEA is calling for an additional $175 billion to stabilize education funding—the $30.7 billion authorized thus far is not nearly enough. The National Governors Association is calling for even more—an additional $500 billion in direct relief to state and local governments. But Congress is going to need convincing even though history shows that’s clearly the right course. A decade ago, during the Great Recession, state and local governments scrapped essential student services and laid off tens of thousands of educators. We can’t let that happen again. TAKE ACTION
COVID-19 exposes homework gap and digital divide
As part of the next COVID-19 legislative package, NEA is pushing Congress to help narrow the digital divide and close the homework gap—the inability to do schoolwork at home due to lack of internet access. Nationwide, as many as 12 million students are affected—roughly 1 in 5. A disproportionate share of those students are African-American, Hispanic, live in rural areas, or come from low-income families. The Emergency Educational Connections Act (H.R. 6563) would provide $2 billion for a special fund, administered by the Federal Communications Commission’s E-Rate program, to equip students to go online for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency. TAKE ACTION
Cheers and Jeers
Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY)introduced the Emergency Educational Connections Act (H.R. 6563), which would provide $2 billion for an emergency fund to help close the homework gap and digital divide.
Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Mike Crapo (R-ID), and James Risch (R-ID) led a bipartisan group of 23 other senators on a letter calling for the Senate to provide much-needed financial certainty during the COVID-19 crisis for rural communities to ensure long-term funding for education and other essential services.
Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA) made a floor speech supporting additional state and local funding to address the coronavirus crisis.
Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, introduced the COVID–19 Every Worker Protection Act (H.R. 6559), which would require the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue an emergency temporary standard, based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to protect all workers from exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) resisted calls for fiscal relief for states and localities hit hard by COVID-19, saying, “We can’t borrow enough money to solve the problem indefinitely … I would certainly be in favor of allowing states to use the bankruptcy route.”