Rep. Norton: “Many schools, like those in the District, have been forced to go virtual because of the pandemic…The delay in passing the Heroes Act, which contains $200B for schools, is unconscionably shortchanging our children .”
Congressional House Education and Labor Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03) and Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-At Large) hosted a press call for regional reporters today demanding the Senate act to support local schools and provide the resources they need to keep students safe and protect against potentially devastating cuts to state education budgets.
The House passed funding to support local schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic more than 100 days ago. But the Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to act.
On today’s call, the Members demanded the Senate work with the House to provide the funding experts say is needed to: safely reopen schools; make sure state and local governments can pay teachers; crush the virus with testing, tracing and treatment; and keep kids from going hungry and prevent their families from losing their homes.
Without that support, many schools across the country cannot afford to take necessary safety measures. For example, according to a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, 4 in 10 districts need to update or replace HVAC systems in at least half of their school buildings. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) school reopening guidance lists proper ventilation as a key consideration for schools seeking to reopen safely.
Additionally, COVID-19 has devastated state and local budgets across the country, threatening possible cuts to schools that could harm their ability to educate children. Without the Heroes Act, budget shortfalls are projected to reach nearly $500 billion for state governments alone. By July, 900,000 public school employees had already lost their jobs, and the American Federation of Teachers issued a report projecting over 1.4 million public school employee layoffs without federal action.
“We all want to get back to full-time, in-person instruction as soon as possible. However, we can only fully reopen our schools if it can be done safely. State and local governments are facing massive budget shortfalls that will cause teacher layoffs and cuts to public education. Unless the federal government takes action, it won’t be a question of whether cuts to education funding will occur, but how deep those cuts will be,” said Chairman Scott. “Our communities deserve better. That is why the House passed the Heroes Act, a COVID-19 relief package that reflects Democrats’ commitment to reopening our nation’s classrooms. This proposal provides $1 trillion to help state and local governments retain school employees and avert devastating cuts to public education.”
“Many schools, like those in the District, have been forced to go virtual because of the pandemic, but there is much more to education than schoolhouses,” said Congresswoman Norton. “The delay in passing the Heroes Act, which contains $200B for schools, is unconscionably shortchanging our children and should be what it takes to break the impasse on the Heroes Act.”