COVID-19 bill passed by House stalls in Senate—for now
Senate Republican leadership is in no rush to take up—or even amend—the HEROES Act passed by the House despite the urgent need to help struggling families cope with fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. The longer Congress delays, the greater the likelihood we’ll see a repeat of the Great Recession, during which financially strapped state and local governments cut essential student services and laid off tens of thousands of educators. This time, the damage could be even worse.
The hallmark of the HEROES Act is $915 billion in direct relief for state and local governments that can be used pay educators and other vital workers. The bill also provides $90 billion to stabilize education funding, takes steps to narrow the digital divide and close the homework gap, and recognizes the pressing need for personal protective equipment (PPE) for educators and other frontline workers. Senators are back in their states for the Memorial Day “recess,” so it’s a good time to reach out. Make sure they know delaying action will only worsen our health and economic crisis. TAKE ACTION
DeVos diverts COVID-19 funds to voucher schemes
Once again, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is making news for the wrong reasons. The headline of a New York Times story published on May 15—the same day the House passed the HEROES Act—sums it up this way: “DeVos Funnels Coronavirus Relief Funds to Favored Private and Religious Schools.” The ensuing story describes how she is diverting millions of dollars intended for public schools to voucher schemes repeatedly rejected by Congress—“microgrants” are just the latest example. The HEROES Act would prohibit using COVID-19 funds for voucher schemes and require DeVos to follow the law and provide equitable services. TAKE ACTION
NEA leaders urge congressional leaders to act
NEA’s leaders meet regularly with congressional leaders to help build support for our positions on the issues. Last Wednesday, NEA President Lily Eskelsen García participated in a virtual briefing with some 30 senators, led by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Patty Murray (D-WA), on the impact of COVID-19 on schools, students and educators—and what we need from the Senate. Last Tuesday, NEA Vice President Becky Pringle participated in a Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) virtual teletown hall on how the coronavirus pandemic is impacting African Americans, along with CBC Chair Karen Bass (D-CA), House Education & Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA), and Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL). Check it out!
Cheers and Jeers
Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT)sent a letter urging Betsy DeVos to rescind “equitable service” guidance on COVID-19 funding that “repurpose[s] hundreds-of-millions of taxpayer dollars intended for public school students to provide services for private school students, in contravention of both the plain reading of the statute and the intent of Congress.”