Education News

Fearing for students, educators demand Senate act to protect public schools

By Amanda Litvinov

Education advocates have succeeded in urging federal legislators in the U.S. House of Representatives to take the first step in protecting public education from the financial turmoil wrought by the coronavirus pandemic.

Today, the U.S. House passed the HEROES Act (Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions), a $3 trillion proposal to stabilize the economy that recognizes the critical role of the public school system.

The hallmark of the bill is $915 billion in relief for states, localities, territories, and tribes to pay vital workers such as first responders, health workers, and educators who are at risk of losing jobs from massive budget shortfalls. There is $90 billion specifically to stabilize funding for K-12 and higher education.

Now, the bill goes to the Senate. Unless they act, credible estimates indicate that public schools could face budget reductions anywhere from 25 to 35 percent.

 You can help: Ask your Senators to stabilize education funding.

“Our governor said early on that we could be looking at 20 percent cuts to school budgets next year,” says Phil Hayes, vice president of Ohio’s Columbus Education Association who for years taught high school social studies.

“We know that with cuts that deep, districts are going to lose educators. And that means fewer services for our students at a time when they will need more services, not less,” Hayes said.

“How are we going to meet even greater needs among students with fewer educators and less resources?”

The crisis yet to come

Every statistic related to the cratering of the economy is terrifying.

At least 36.5 million Americans are out of work, the highest rate since the Great Depression. Lost jobs and business closures have decimated state revenues; those losses could get as bad as $650 billion over the next three years, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.  

Though the $30 billion Congress dedicated to K-12 and higher education when it passed the CARES Act last month was a step in the right direction, it won’t begin to cover such losses.

Even a 15 percent cut to education budgets could eliminate as many as 320,000 teaching jobs according to an analysis by the Learning Policy Institute. The lead researcher acknowledged that’s a conservative figure, and the reality is likely to be far worse.

We know from past experience that those job cuts will not be equally felt. Poorer districts that rely more heavily on state aid, will be hit the hardest.

You can help: Ask your Senators to stabilize education funding.

In Michigan, the chair of the state senate’s education committee has already warned of a possible 25 percent cut to school budgets. Michigan is one of a dozen states that never fully recovered from the recession that began more than a decade ago.

Wendy Winston

As a 20-year veteran educator from Grand Rapids, math teacher Wendy Winston knows what it’s like to work year after year without all the resources students need.

“Instead of decreasing funding for public education, we really need to increase it,” Winston said during a virtual conference on education organized by the Democratic National Committee.

Whether students are learning remotely or in school buildings, their needs will be greater in the wake of the pandemic, she said.

“We need to put more money into support staff, like custodial and maintenance. We need more funding for mental health resources—social workers, guidance counselors. We need to lower class sizes, and we need to deal with trauma.”

Where cuts will take the greatest toll

Winston said many of her students lack the devices and internet access they need to participate fully in remote learning. Some access lessons on cell phones, with only tiny screens and no keyboard to work with.

Phil Hayes

“That’s a problem we’ve been dealing with for many years, it’s just being expanded right now and it’s visible now with remote learning,” Winston said.

Phil Hayes of Ohio can relate.  

“What really concerns me is that some of our most vulnerable students—special education students, ELL students, students in poverty—do not have equal access in this time that we’re doing distance learning,” says Hayes.

His local, the Columbus Education Association, surveyed its membership in March and April regarding student engagement during school building closures. According to respondents, only 54 percent of Columbus students have participated in online learning. Participation rates were lower for special needs students (46%) and English Language Learners (35%).

“Our broken school funding model leaves districts like ours squeezed for resources for the students who need them the most,” said CEA President John Coneglio in a statement. “This unprecedented crisis has further exposed these fault lines and highlights the need to redouble our fight for educational equity.”

The National Education Association has taken on this specific aspect of the digital divide known as the “homework gap,” pushing for $4 billion in dedicated funding to address it nationally.

You can help: Ask your Senators to stabilize education funding.


Fighting for the future

Melanie Buchanan is a middle school math teacher from Nashville, who teaches in a neighboring district.

In a state that relies heavily on sales tax to fund education, she fears what budget cuts could mean for public schools without sufficient stabilization funding from Congress.

“What will our work look like in the fall?” Buchanan wonders. “Will we be teaching in shifts? If we cut educator jobs and then ask teachers to do double duty, it’s going to be nearly impossible for us to be there to support our own families.”

She is in a middle-class district and her students have one-to-one technology. But there is still a pocket of kids who don’t have internet access at home—and some who have seemingly disappeared.

“Of the 75 students that I teach, there are six that I haven’t heard from in nine weeks,” she says. She is deeply worried about their welfare, as e-mails and calls to parents go unanswered.

“You think of all those kids who come to school for access to learning and technology, but also access to regular meals and support from adults who care about them,” says Buchanan.

“We are trying so hard to connect with each and every family we can, but we need our legislators to do everything they can to help us.”

63 responses to “Fearing for students, educators demand Senate act to protect public schools

  1. Interesting that when a differing opinion pops up here, it mysteriously disappears…apparently not passing the moderators liberal litmus test.

    We certainly need to fund education, but when California passes billions in bond after bond after tax increase to SPECIFICALLY fun schools, where is that money? In the bloated admin and bureaucratic quagmire, never reaching the students they were meant to help. I’m a 10-year teacher in California with two college-age kids…with the catastrophic mismanagement of educational funds by this liberal state, perhaps running schools more like a business isn’t such a bad idea….

    1. Sorry for the delay in posting your comments Paul. Since it was your first time commenting on the site, I had to manually approve you to post. Just a way to reduce spam. You should be able to post without approvals now.

  2. While I agree we need to fund our educational system, as a 10-year California teacher and parent to college kids, I find it laughable that liberals (particularly in this state) continue to demand more money when bonds and tax increases have been voted in to give us BILLIONS of dollars…nearly all of which have been blown by bloated admin and bureaucratic nitwits. A quick look at those measures and propositions passed in the last 20 years show that our leaders simply don’t know how to manage that money, but boy we sure know how to stick our hand out! We complain about running schools as businesses. In some respects, they SHOULD be.

  3. Sorry. Guidelines for returning to school seem unrealistic and don’t think safety can be enforced. What are teachers going to do when students don’t want to wear masks? Are they going to glue them to the children’s faces? Are students who want to bully other students, going to breath on them? I, as a parent, will pull my children out of the LAUSD system and place them in Online learning. Sorry. My children’s lives are much more important than whatever they could learn inside of a classroom or school that cannot secure their safety. I am sure that other parents may feel the same. A shooter can be seen and other risks are assumed. This virus is invisible. LAUSD your return to school guidelines are sketchy and not enforcible.

    1. Interesting that when a differing opinion pops up here, it mysteriously disappears…apparently not passing the moderators liberal litmus test.

      We certainly need to fund education, but when California passes billions in bond after bond after tax increase to SPECIFICALLY fun schools, where is that money? In the bloated admin and bureaucratic quagmire, never reaching the students they were meant to help. I’m a 10-year teacher in California with two college-age kids…with the catastrophic mismanagement of educational funds by this liberal state, perhaps running schools more like a business isn’t such a bad idea….

  4. Betsy DeVos & the administration are trying to undermine Public Education. The charter schools Have diverted too much money & hurt us. PLEASE FUND PUBLIC SCHOOLS!

    1. Our public schools are already struggling with supplies and resources needed to close the education gap. Title 1 schools are suffering the most! I have taught all my years in a title 1 school but my children go to a no title 1 school and there is a MAJOR difference in support, resources, and state funding. It plays a part in the achievement gap! PLEASE FUND PUBLIC SCHOOLS! The children are our future and the count on us!!!

    2. Not a penny to devos’ private schools. She knows NOTHING about education. Private schools are accountable to no one. Devos has taken money from public schools to pay for her private schools.

  5. Quality public education is essential to a successful democracy. Education must be fully supported. Skimping on investing in our country’s education hurts everyone’s future.

  6. The House needs to finally create a bill that targets real areas of need. They keep throwing in a lot of fat for their agenda, while taking advantage of the pandemic. We really need the House to get serious at such an important time. It’s time that they show that they care about people and Americans.

  7. I am asking that you please pass the CARES ACT. To support our local schools and our future generations.

    1. Senator Gardner & Senator Bennet,
      This should be an easy YES vote for you to cast! The CARES ACT is critical for students across Colorado especially with the strangling effect TABOR has on educating funding.
      I implore you to do the right thing & vote YES on the CARES ACT! thank you

    2. We need the support from our local, state, and federal government to support our public schools. Any kind of education cuts will hinder public schools such as cuts in staff and economic resources for schools. Cuts will probably mean laying off many, educators, nurses, counselors, psychologists, librarians, custodians, etc. Our strike obtained a partial number of personnel in our schools, and with the cuts it will take us back. It would not be fair to have lay offs because the younger teachers are the ones to go first. We need younger educators because they are more tech savvy and have more energy to work with difficult behavior students. So it is crucial that we do not make any cuts in schools because we need all the personnel to make a school a better place for students to prosper and succeed to become the leaders of the future.

  8. My daughter has a BS in Health Sciences and is an essential employee and has been working every day in the healthcare industry. However, her student loan debt is in excess of $60,000 and she is making less take home pay than people collecting unemployment currently. My daughter came back home after college so she can pay down her student loan. Meanwhile, this definitely makes her feel undervalued as an essential employee. Please forgive student loans to healthcare workers and all others working the front lines daily!!

    1. Many student loans are not being paid due to unemployment, sickness & adversities. Please forgive student debt.

  9. Please include all the classified employees , as well as teachers and students in this bill. Also, why is there extra “stuff” attached to this bill that is supposed to be for education, for teachers, students, and support staff? I would like for someone to explain that to me. They must really think we are a bunch of dummies, but I see what’s going on. Trying to slip something in thinking no one will notice?

    1. Due to the traumatic events of the devastating viruses we need to invest to serve the social emotional trauma needs of All people who have had family members lost, the lost of income, educators and school personnel who serve our students. The hospitals and medical workers who have been caring for our critically ill need assistance in dealing with their own personal trauma. Feeding people who have lost their jobs is crucial. Creating jobs investing in small businesses an new businesses is crucial to get people back to work so they can survive the longevity of this economic downfall

  10. Please fund the future of America. Do what’s right! Our children deserve more!

    Signed by the mother of 4 in public schools and the teacher of 28 second graders (and yes- that’s too many for early education already).

  11. Ms Filer and Ms. Knowles,
    Please do everything you can to make it possible for student loan debt to be reduced or forgiven.
    Thank you!

    1. Agreed how can they begin to repay when any opportunity for a career has been minimalized.

  12. Take away the student loan debt from Teachers, Drs, nurses, medical assistants, all front liners and essential workers. So pretty much everyone needs thier student Loan’s forgiven. Make colleges and universities free!

  13. Your obligation to our students requires that you do your best to support education.
    Make sure that you are honoring this obligation by doing your best to implement measures to protect the educational system in this country. Americans deserve the best for their children-they are our future. Make sure that they’re prepared.

  14. I am a EC Teacher Assistant in a Pre-K inclusion classroom with students with special needs and I am also working on my Bachelor’s degree to become a licensed teacher. I am all for K-12 and higher education teachers getting pay raises and funding for essentials and resources necessary to educate our youth, but I don’t ever see where preschool programs and Teacher Assistants are included. Teacher Assistants are teachers too! We teach necessary goals and some of have the education to prove it! Preschool is a great foundation for young children to be prepared for future schooling and shouldn’t be left out of the number! When raises and bonuses come down, only teachers receive it which leave us as teacher’s assistants feeling that we mean nothing! That is not fair to us and an insult that we are not regarded as being an important part of the teaching profession! What is being done to include us?!?

    1. I agree! I’m a teacher’s aide for special education students in my local high school and I feel the same way. We are just as important as lead teachers. A lot of times, we actually do more than them and know the kids so much more. Please, include us as teachers.

    2. Districts need to step up an see the value of support personnel. Show them the respect and dignity that they show our communities children everyday. Step up recognize and compensate them with a fair liveable working wage!

  15. Student Loan Reduction And/Or Forgiveness is important for our young people to move forward and for our economy!

    1. As a mom of a first responder – to have student loan forgiveness is one less thing she could have taken care of and not stress. Our nurses, doctors, firefighters, educators have all worked extremely hard during this country’s time of crisis and they deserve to be respected and honored and this is one way we can do that for them.

  16. Publuc Education is Important in a Democracy! Though Jefferson and Adams disagreed on many things…They Both agreed on this about the importance of public Schools in our Democracy!

  17. I am highly concerned about our most vulnerable special education students, particularly those with physical and health impairments. They will be the last to return safely to a school environment, least able to benefit from distance learning, and their families highly in need of support to maintain learning and stimulation. A support bill should provide for options With health precautions to have special education assistants, therapists and teachers provide learning through home visits.

  18. People who stay in the teaching field for 8-10 years should have their loans fully forgiven. This could be done by conditionally forgiving the loan once they become public school (not private school) teachers, but reinstate the debt either in total or on a pro-rata basis if they teach less that 8-10 years. Pretty simple & gets teachers into classrooms.

    1. Students loans can already be forgiven if someone spends 10 years in public service, which includes working in the public school system. Check with your lender or Google “Public Service Student Loan Forgiveness.” I am relying on this.

      1. Years ago, ( I’m retired now), my student loans were forgiven by the State of Virginia on a year-to-year basis. Each year I taught for Virginia, I received 1 year off my student loans. I then went on and taught 43 years.

  19. Protect our future! Support public schools by fully finding educations bills that support those families most at risk!

    1. Please act to protect public education, which I feel is vital to this country and especially this state.

    2. Students should be empowered by their higher education to pursue their dreams and do great work with their lives. They MUST NOT be chained and held down by crippling student loans. There is NO BETTER INVESTMENT IN AMERICA THAN THE EDUCATION OF OUR PEOPLE.

  20. Students are our future.

  21. I support the work and committment of the NEA.
    I liked the fact that you set up the “tweett” aspect of this doc. More of this is greatly appeciated!

  22. I don’t think that your paycheck and benefits would be affected by the pandemic. Mine could be! Please vote for the money to go towards the necassary funding to not only maintain the educators, but the support staffing needed. Many of these educators work a second job. I have a second job not full time anymore, but at one time I worked from 8am-11pm to support my boys, my mother and myself. I no longer need to work like that. I still work my second job partime. Thank God its in the medical field and I am essential otherwise I too would be trying collect unemployment. I work in Psyche when not in a school setting.
    Do you realize how this will affect children, parents, people and families? The amount of people laid off and furloughed is devasting. Do you realize how many of those people will have serious mental health issues? Do you remember the amount of suicides that took place when the stock market crashed during the great depression… How many more times will that be magnified? Parents can’t work if they need to stay home and educate their children. Children in the richest nation arent eating the way they use to… or are they eating?
    reopen schools and keep the funding going to schools that are especially in lower income areas to help these parents and military work as needed.

  23. Pass the Heroes Act!!! We can’t take anymore cuts and keep quality educators or students! People leave public education because of the lack of resources. A lack of funding only creates more problems in an already overburdened system.

    1. Kelly. Democrats first have to show that they care about people. They need to create a bill that targets people that are essential and where funding is really needed. Everytime the House creates a bill, they throw in a wish-list for their extreme left absurdities.

  24. I teach ESL at an adult school and am an instructional assistant at an elementary school. I worry about students/parents who have no way to access online learning, who may also be exposed to the virus due to their work, who have lost their jobs, who can’t pay for basic necessities, who have no health insurance, etc. Is the federal government just going to abandon public education in this country because the public is experiencing a crisis?

  25. Keeping funding stable at the LEAST our government can do to create a true United States of America! It is critical to the continued education of our nations children. Taking an attitude of ending public education in favor of a mishmash of on-line , private contracted schools (reminds one of the institutional prisons system for profit) is a travesty and a real shredding of our American ideals.

  26. I am a parent. I am a teacher. I am a specialist who provides specific services. And I am a tax payer. It’s time America put its money where it’s mouth is. Stop saying you care about the future. SHOW IT! Bail out public education! Interventions require funding! The future of this country depends on it.

    1. Interesting that you use the expression “bail out.” I recall the federal government “bailouts” of banks and car manufacturers that were considered “too big to fail.” If any industry deserves the “too big to fail” designation, it’s public education.

  27. We urge the senate to pass HEROES Act (Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions)!

    1. Janet, no we don’t. They need to create a bill that targets area of need. They keep throwing in things that have nothing to do with need (fat in the bill). They keep taking advantage of the pandemic.

  28. Please help stabilize funding for Education as we continue to educate and prepare our youth amid this crisis. These funds are critical to meet the new needs this crisis has placed on school
    systems. The United States must prepare and protect our children for future. The school children are the future of this country. Please help us do this by supporting legislation.

  29. Please help our teachers. In this time of uncertainty it is vital to know that not only our jobs are secure but the children’s education will be protected.

  30. Please help our teachers. In this time of uncertainty it is vital to know that not only our jobs are secure but the children’s education will be protected.

  31. Please fund public schools..not the public charters created under Kasich that have robbed from public schools…and was ramped up by Devos to destroy it. We have dropped to 44th from 5th under Strickland and ARRA….and they defunded special education, IDEA, and FAPE.

    1. Please fund our schools without all frivolous added in this bill. Now is not the time for this our children need to educated to keep this country going. Do the right thing now.

    2. Mitch Mc Connell needs to be held responsible in the Senate right now by all his colleagues to stabilize school funding for all our students and communities so they are ready when school does start up again. NO stone should be left unturned to make sure all the needs are met for all entering the school or on virtual learning so no one this time feels left out or unprotected.

      1. Please pass the HEROES Act, and please get rid of Betsy DeVos and replace her with someone who has actually been in a public school classroom, and whose children go to a public school. Please DO NOT start laying off teachers, there is a teacher shortage and you should be hiring not firing! Please vote to support public education! RED FOR ED!

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