EdAction in Congress

EdAction in Congress May 10, 2020

DeVos uses COVID-19 to push failed privatization agenda

Betsy DeVos isn’t focused on the looming crisis in education funding, educators’ need for personal protective equipment (PPE), or students’ need for internet access so they can do schoolwork at home. Instead, she’s using the coronavirus crisis to push her failed privatization agenda with schemes like “microgrants”—just another name for vouchers—and extra help for private and religious schools. “It is shameful that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos would use a pandemic like the coronavirus to, once again, push her failed privatization agenda to defund public schools,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García.

In short, Betsy DeVos and the Trump administration are pushing privatization when the focus should be state budget shortfalls caused by the COVID-19 pandemic—and what those massive shortfalls mean for the public schools that educate 9 out of 10 students. NEA is asking Congress for an additional $175 billion for the Education Stabilization Fund created by the CARES Act—the $30.7 billion authorized thus far is not nearly enough. The non-partisan National Governors Association is calling for even more—an additional $500 billion in direct relief to state and local governments. But Congress needs to hear from us. Right now. 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

ESPs and other frontline educators need PPE

“We have used the district’s funds for PPE, when they could’ve been used for more meals and technology,” said Vanessa Jiminez, an education support professional in Phoenix, Arizona, at an NEA teletown hall on May 7 with Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT). As part of the next COVID-19 legislative package, NEA is seeking at least $56 million for personal protective equipment (PPE) for education support professionals and educators in direct contact with students. These professionals are continuing to prepare and distribute meals; clean, maintain, and secure school buildings; oversee technology needs; and perform other vital work during the pandemic. They should be considered frontline workers whose jobs are essential, and that means having PPE to protect themselves, as well as their families and communities, from infection.  TAKE ACTION

Equip students to do schoolwork at home

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. NEA supports the Emergency Educational Connections Act, which would provide up to $4 billion for a special fund, administered by the Federal Communications Commission’s E-Rate program, to equip students to do schoolwork at home during the COVID-19 national emergency. TAKE ACTION

Cheers and Jeers

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) is leading a “Dear Colleague” that asks Democratic leadership to include at least $175 billion in education funding in the next coronavirus bill.

Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) led a bipartisan letter urging the inclusion of increased Secure Rural Schools funding in the next COVID-19 package.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos issued a new Title IX rule that undercuts protections for victims. “[She] ignored the voices of not only educators from public schools and higher education institutions, but also those of students who wrote to her about the chilling effect the proposed changes would have,” said NEA president Lily Eskelsen García.

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