Blog

Your Education Road Map

Politics K-12®

ESSA. Congress. State chiefs. School spending. Elections. Education Week reporters keep watch on education policy and politics in the nation’s capital and in the states. Read more from this blog.

Education

Schools Should Get Federal Money to Help Put Kids in Classrooms, Top Senator Says

By Andrew Ujifusa — July 15, 2020 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The head of the U.S. Senate education committee says that in addition to providing new funding to help all schools reopen safely in the fall, states should get federal relief to support them resuming face-to-face instruction.

The Tuesday comments from Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., are a signal that, as school districts wrestle with complex questions about how to start the new academic year, the specific challenge of how to reopen buildings is resonating on Capitol Hill.

“Congress should provide new federal funding to help all public and private schools and colleges open safely this Fall,” Alexander said in the statement. “We should also give states new funding to distribute to those schools and colleges that incur additional expenses because of meaningful plans to open safely with students physically present in classrooms.”

He also highlighted a statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics that “all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school.” The group’s recommendations with respect to school reopenings, released late last month, have been under the spotlight recently, and the academy recently issued a follow-up statement along with several education groups urging caution on school reopenings.

On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he would begin releasing details of a virus aid package—including new money for schools—as soon as next week.

Last week, President Donald Trump and other White House officials used multiple public events last week to pressure if not demand that schools hold in-person instruction in the fall. While Trump threatened to cut off funding—an ultimatum that doesn’t have clear teeth behind it—Vice President Mike Pence suggested that additional virus relief for schools could be conditioned on having school buildings reopen.

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has also said that schools should be planning to resume full and normal operations in the 2020-21 academic year. Although she stressed that educators have an obligation to do so, she’s given little direction or clarity to school leaders as to how they should go about this, and she also downplayed the usefulness of school reopening guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She also said that federal education aid should be provided directly to families if their school buildings don’t reopen.

Pressure has been growing for weeks for Congress to provide schools with emergency relief. Last month, Alexander released his estimate that K-12 schools and colleges and universities combined would need between $50 billion to $75 billion to reopen safely. That figure covered health supplies and other protocols, but did not include larger budgetary concerns for schools like retaining staff.

It’s also far short of many demands other lawmakers and outside lobbyists have made for federal aid. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the ranking member of the Senate education committee, wants at least $200 billion in congressional spending for schools in any new relief package. However, a relief bill passed by the House in May includes $58 billion in direct aid for schools.

Photo: Sen. Lamar Alexander, R- Tenn., speaks during a Senate education committee hearing on Capitol Hill on June 30, 2020. (Al Drago/Pool via AP)


Follow us on Twitter @PoliticsK12. And follow the Politics K-12 reporters @EvieBlad @Daarel and @AndrewUjifusa.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Schools Get the Brunt of Latest COVID Wave in South Carolina
In the past few weeks, South Carolina has set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases have approached peak levels of last winter.
4 min read
Two Camden Elementary School students in masks listen as South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster talks about steps the school is taking to fight COVID-19, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Camden, S.C. McMaster has adamantly and repeatedly come out against requiring masks in schools even as the average number of daily COVID-19 cases in the state has risen since early June. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
Education More States Are Requiring Schools to Teach Native American History and Culture
Advocates say their efforts have gained some momentum with the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd.
3 min read
A dancer participates in an intertribal dance at Schemitzun on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Conn., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Connecticut and a handful of other states have recently decided to mandate students be taught about Native American culture and history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP