As the new school year approaches and COVID-19 surges, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and the GOP are hurting students, educators, and communities by keeping parents in limbo and schools scrambling to come up with contingency plans. McConnell refuses to take up the HEROES Act, passed by the House more than two months ago, and still has not come up with a bill of his own. The GOP is in such disarray the legislation could be released piecemeal, as a series of bills—a continuation of the failed, fractured approach that has prevailed when America needs bipartisan, bicameral cooperation to conquer and contain COVID-19.
From what we know, the GOP’s legislation will fall far short of what is needed. McConnell wants to limit spending to $1 trillion (one-third the amount provided by the HEROES Act), scale back stimulus checks, and reduce unemployment benefits. Several provisions strongly opposed by NEA could also be included like linking the receipt of education funding to in-person instruction without regard for safety, voucher schemes or set-aside programs that fund private schools at the expense of public schools, and waiving liability for providing safe teaching and learning conditions.
The GOP’s legislation will not include the $1 trillion in aid to state and local governments that is part of the HEROES Act—crucial if we are to avoid layoffs of educators, resume in-person instruction safely, and provide meaningful online instruction. If the economic damage from COVID-19 goes unchecked, nearly 2 million educators—one-fifth of the workforce—could lose their jobs over the next three years. These job losses would profoundly impact the 50 million students who attend public schools, their families, and communities—especially low-income students whose schools rely on Title I funding to lower class sizes, hire specialists, and offer a rich curriculum.
“Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has done absolutely nothing but stall the HEROES Act, go on a prolonged summer vacation, and squander critical time to safely and equitably reopen school buildings. And now he seems set on introducing a partisan bill that he knows won’t even pass in the Senate where he controls a majority,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia.
To help reopen schools and campuses safely, NEA is urging Congress to provide at least $175 billion to stabilize education funding, directed funding for personal protective equipment (PPE), at least $4 billion to equip students with hot spots and devices to help narrow the digital divide and close the homework gap, relief for student loan borrowers, and more.
Email your senators and tell them to take action to reopen schools and campuses safely and save educators’ jobs.