Education News

Mitch McConnell’s 5 terrible ideas for reopening schools

By Amanda Menas

Mitch McConnell and GOP Senators have now had 11 weeks to put forward a new round of COVID-19 relief, and have failed. Following the House passing the HEROES Act in May, McConnell has refused to work across the aisle, causing insurmountable harm to millions of Americans. Over the last three months, educators, students, and entire school communities have been suffering, not only from personal losses caused by the pandemic, but also with the impending dread of returning to school buildings without proper funding for personal protective equipment or adequate technology for students to be able to learn remotely or in hybrid models.

The piecemeal approach McConnell and the Trump administration have put forward with just weeks before the beginning of the school year threatens the safety and livelihoods of educators and families. He is playing games during the pandemic, using students as pawns. Now, data has shown that the economy contracted at its fastest quarterly rate between April and June, causing educators who rely on second or third jobs during the summer months and throughout the school year to worry about keeping food on the table, all while the GOP still touts a plan for a fast recovery. In July, a record breaking number of people, including many educators, were unable to pay their rent on time.

Instead of doing his job, here are the five things Mitch McConnell has threatened in Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools (HEALS) Act he put out 11 weeks late:

1. No funding for State and Local

Where the HEROES Act included $1 trillion in aid to local and state governments to avoid laying off frontline public service workers—in health care, public safety, education, and other areas—who are dedicated to helping us overcome our national crisis, the HEAL Act provides absolutely nothing.  If the economic damage wrought by the coronavirus pandemic goes unchecked, the nation stands to lose 1.89 million education jobs over the next three years, according to a new analysis by the National Education Association. Stated another way, we could lose one-fifth of the workforce that powers public schools and higher education institutions. Those cuts will not only impact the educators who receive those pink slips and their families. It will also profoundly impact the 50 million students who attend public schools and their families, disproportionately affecting students of color.

2. Vouchers that take money away from public schools

Republican Congressmen are pushing for so-called Education Freedom Scholarships, which look eerily like vouchers, even though they soundly rejected a similar proposal during the 2017 tax debate. Whether they’re called “Education Saving Accounts,” “Tuition Tax Credits” or “Opportunity Scholarships,” the result is always the same: directly or indirectly, less money for public schools and more for unaccountable private schools. Federal emergency education funding should go to our public schools and educators to benefit the 90 percent of the nation’s students who attend public schools—not to advance Secretary Betsy DeVos’ failed privatization agenda

3. Funding tied to school reopening

Funding that is tied to school districts resuming in-person instruction or incentivizing hurried, haphazard reopening puts educators, students, and entire school communities at risk. Educators, more than anyone, want schools to reopen—but this must occur safely. Holding education funding hostage makes a mockery of local control, and could force students and staff to return to unsafe conditions. This could prolong the pandemic— particularly in high-poverty communities and communities of color that are already hard-hit by the virus—and ultimately make resuming in-person learning more difficult, while also starving schools of the funding they need to provide remote instruction.

4. Not extending suspension of federal student loans

While the CARES Act provided a base-line funding methodology, the six-month suspension of federal student loan payments was not enough time for students to get back on their feet following the worst economic downturn in decades. Educators are calling on Congress to not only cancel monthly federal student loan payments and interest accrual for the duration of the COVID-19 national emergency, including commercially held Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL) and Perkins Loans held by institutions of higher education, but also cancel at least $30,000 in student loan debt per student after the emergency ends. NEA members are also advocating for additional assistance for community colleges.

5. Stripping away workers protections

Waiving liability without having federal or state mandates in place to protect health and safety would encourage schools and campuses to reopen despite public health concerns, and would send the message that they are, indeed, unsafe. NEA strongly opposes waiving school districts’ and higher education institutions’ liability for providing safe conditions for teaching and learning.

10 responses to “Mitch McConnell’s 5 terrible ideas for reopening schools

  1. In KY our teachers led the movement to oust Matt Bevin as the most destructive governor Ky has ever seen. He was anti public education, told our teachers they were responsible if their students were abused or raped while the teachers organized and marched. He also wanted to end the affordable care act which extended healthcare for so many in our poor state. BE VERY AWARE: McConnell and Trump are as dangerous to our health and public education as was the dethroned Bevin. Just look at Betsy Devos and her let them eat cake attitude. They want to make the rich richer and stronger with charter schools and leave public education in the dust. The most anti middle class regime ever. Mitch wants to end social security and Medicare. They don’t care if public school teachers and students thin the herd with covid 19

  2. Will he ensure that all schools have safe air by having their HVAC/ventilation systems checked before reopening? Masks and hand sanitizers alone will not keep staff, teachers, and children safe.

  3. Children are precious to their parents and grandparents. We do not want our children to substitute as lab rats during this pandemic. If they want to reopen the economy, let them do so, and spread the risk among any who feel strong enough, and those who have the PPE venture out into public mingling. Our children are not open to be sacrificed, No, thank you.

  4. McConnell and the republicans need to get off their asses and get to work for the people or resign! Vote blue and kick Moscow Mitch to the curb!

  5. Despicable. Absolutely despicable. Greedy politicians who hate public education & will do anything to debilitate it more than it already is.

  6. My husband is a teacher of more than 30 years. In May 2020, I had a stem cell transplant for acute myeloid leukemia.. I have the immune system of a three month old., as if I was a baby born on May fifth.

    My transplant team would prefer that he teach online, but his school district is planning to return to class five days a week with masks and social distancing. He teaches one class each in the elementary and high school buildings, and the rest in the junior high.

    We are planning on him changing clothes at school at the end of each day and then coming home and showering right away. He will also use a separate bathroom and bedroom. The school is not testing staff or students, but he is going to try and get tested on a regular basis. I am going to stay in a bedroom and bathroom and leave the kitchen before he is home, to avoid exposure.. When we talk in the same room, I will wear a mask and touch nothing.

    This is our reality so that my husband can continue employment and insurance during the duration of this pandemic and try to keep me safe. If he tests positive with COVID-19, or I need a caregiver again, I do not
    know how we will manage.

    We thought this last year was going to be our worst as I fought leukemia through rounds of chemo, five months in hospitals, and recovered from my transplant. Now it seems that worse may be yet to come.

    My husband loves teaching, and his middle school students enjoy his classes, but the kind of life that we must lead to try to keep safe is another great sacrifice for this educator.

    1. Your story saddens my heart, and touches many others. We need to hear about things like this and back educators and their families.

    2. Shellee,
      Your story is so touching. I have a lot of health problems, but you are in real danger. It is really critical that your husband not teach in person. Doesn’t the BOE have any regard for its teachers, or are the just pawns that can be replaced?

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