By Amanda Menas
In these stressful times, students need more support than ever, but Senate Republicans, led by Mitch McConnell, are blocking the funding schools need. Another 280,500 education jobs were lost between August 2020 and September 2020, according to the latest jobs numbers. That makes a total of 835,700 educators laid off or furloughed during the pandemic.
Earlier in the year, an NEA analysis projected that nearly 2 million education jobs could be lost over the next three years if Congress does not act to protect state and local economies. America is now well on its way toward that number.
The unprecedented rush to confirm the next Supreme Court justice laid bare the GOP Senate majority’s priorities. Reopening our schools safely and alleviating suffering from COVID-19—physical and financial—do not merit action, while filling the vacancy on the Court does. Ironically, the push to install Justice Ginsburg’s successor began just as the nation surpassed the tragic milestone of 200,000 deaths from COVID-19.
In order to support all students through the coronavirus pandemic as they continue virtual, hybrid, or in-person learning, educators across the country have called on the Senate to take bipartisan action on a coronavirus package that helps reopen school buildings and college campuses safely and provides meaningful online instruction. But McConnell has said that he is halting negotiations until after the Presidential election, leaving students, educators, and families without critical support.
These seven GOP senators have stood by, allowing their leadership to stand in the way of ensuring that students have access to an equitable learning environment and educators who support their needs:
Arizona Senator Martha McSally
According to the most recent employment numbers, 13,300 state and local education jobs have already been lost under McSally’s watch. Over the past seven months, she has put politics ahead of student lives and educator jobs. She even stands by President Trump on his COVID task force, all while educators across the state work to ensure their physical safety if they are forced to return for in-person instruction.
Colorado Senator Cory Gardner
Since February 2020, 35,900 education jobs have been lost. These numbers already exceed projections from earlier in the crisis, leaving hundreds of thousands of students beginning the school year unsupported. Gardner has supported the Republican-backed “skinny” stimulus package that provides less funding for school districts than was approved by House Democrats in multiple bills they have passed.
Iowa Senator Joni Ernst
Ernst’s history of anti-public education policies has left Iowa’s education system without 11,300 jobs going into the 2020-21 school year. Iowa educators were faced with entering their classrooms this fall with no clear leadership on the pandemic — All U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst says is that President Obama failed on Ebola and Trump has “stepped up” with COVID-19. Right now, schools need more support than ever to help keep students and staff safe, but Joni Ernst has done everything in her power to cut education funding over her tenure.
Maine Senator Susan Collins
Collins has proven time and time again that she sides with her party and special interests over Maine’s students. During the pandemic, her inaction in the senate has cost her state 7,800 jobs. After 24 years in Washington, Senator Collins has become part of the broken system, putting special interests and her political party first.
Montana Senator Steve Daines
As an extreme bureaucrat who advocates for privatization of public schools, Daines has failed students and educators since before the pandemic took hold of Montana. Over the last seven months, his lack of leadership has ensured the loss of 3,900 jobs for Montana’s teachers, ESPs, and other education professionals. During the pandemic, Daines’ calls to support voucher programs have hindered the ability of students to succeed to their fullest potential.
North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis
Thom Tillis gutted education when he was Speaker of the North Carolina House, causing the state’s schools, students, and educators to suffer from a significant lack of resources for years. Now, as the COVID-19 pandemic has torn through communities, he has continued to threaten the well being of students and educators, and he simply stood by as his state alone lost 27,700 jobs in the field of education.
South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham
Where House Democrats quickly worked across the aisle to pass COVID relief legislation at the beginning of the pandemic, Graham helped stall legislation in the senate, only to push forward a rushed confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. The consequences to public education are blatant: 14,800 jobs have already been lost.