Washington, D.C. – As health and education officials develop novel coronavirus (COVID-19) guidelines, precautions, and restrictions for reopening schools this fall, U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) and Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) are urging Congress and the Trump Administration to act with the same sense of urgency and provide additional federal funding to help students safely return to the classroom and allow schools to continue distance learning as needed. In addition to Senators Cortez Masto and Rosen, 41 Senate Democrats joined the letter led by U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) calling for at least $175 billion for the Elementary and Secondary Education Relief Fund in any future coronavirus relief package.
Without swift, comprehensive Congressional action, it will be impossible for America’s 100,000 K-12 public schools — which are already facing severe budget cuts — to adequately prepare to protect students, teachers, staff, families, and the community from the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the coming academic year.
“There can be no economic recovery in either the short term or the long term unless we make the investments necessary to safely reopen schools and ensure continuity of education during the ongoing pandemic,” the Senators wrote. “If schools are unable to reopen safely, it will be nearly impossible for many parents and caregivers to return to work. Moreover, the long-term consequences of sustained educational disruption could also hold this generation back, affecting students’ quality of life and weakening our nation. We must take urgent action to ensure that schools are ready and able to educate children this fall and redouble our efforts to close opportunity gaps that are far too prevalent in the communities suffering the greatest health and economic harm from the impact of COVID-19. As such, we ask that you include at least an additional $175 billion in dedicated funding for the Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief Fund that was established under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.”
The CARES Act (Public Law No. 116-136) provided a much-needed $30.75 billion down payment on education funding, but not nearly enough to help cover the additional costs from this school year while also ensuring that schools nationwide will be ready to safely reopen in the fall. Under the law, $13.5 billion went to K-12 emergency relief grants, while $13.95 billion was made available for a Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund for colleges and universities, with the remaining $2.95 billion directed to an Education Stabilization Fund for disbursement to governors.
“This upcoming school year will be like no other,” the Senators continued. “School districts will need to redesign the school day and be prepared to switch to distance learning as necessary. There will be new protocols for sanitation, transportation, and staffing. Schools will have to reengineer the use of space in and around the school building and reconfigure classrooms to ensure that social distancing can be maintained. More critically, they will also need to increase their capacity to support children’s well-being – including nutrition, health screenings, and mental health supports – whether in person or at a distance. One thing is certain, school is a lifeline for children in the communities hit hardest by the pandemic and the ensuing economic fallout. School must be there for them.”
Full text of the letter is available here.
Senators Cortez Masto and Rosen are original co-sponsors of the Rebuild America’s Schools Act to fund $100 billion in direct grants and school construction bonds over the next decade to repair and modernize schools. They have also called for this bill to be included in future COVID-19 recovery legislation.