Find your next job fast at the Jan. 28 Virtual Career Fair. Register now.
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.

Education

Senate GOP Sticks to School Choice Push in Slimmed Down Relief Proposal

By Evie Blad — September 08, 2020 2 min read

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell unveiled a slimmed down coronavirus relief proposal Tuesday that continues a GOP push to include school choice measures in the latest round of federal pandemic aid.

The Kentucky Republican pledged to hold a vote as soon as this week on the bill, which lacks the bipartisan support necessary to win full approval. It’s the latest volley in frequently stalled discussions between both parties and the White House over the next COVID-19 aid package. In statements to the press, McConnell said he wanted to get senators on the record through a vote.

“Congress can, should, and must do more to help,” he said. “The Senate will vote, and the American people will be watching.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, called the proposal an “emaciated bill” that is “only intended to help vulnerable Republican Senators by giving them a ‘check the box’ vote to maintain the appearance that they’re not held hostage by their extreme right-wing that doesn’t want to spend a nickel to help people.”

The bill does not include some provisions Congressional Democrats have called essential, like assistance to state and local governments that district leaders have said are needed to help avert cuts to school staffing and programs.

The bill would provide an additional $105 billion to an education stabilization fund to help schools respond to the pandemic. As in the previous GOP proposal, it would condition two-thirds of aid to schools on plans to physically reopen school buildings. That provision remains even after the school year has started in most districts, and many have opted for continued remote learning..

The new proposal modifies some school choice provisions championed by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. GOP Senate leaders had included in their previous bill, introduced in July.

Most notably, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican, had pushed to include DeVos’ Education Freedom Scholarship proposal in the bill. That proposal would provide federal tax credits totalling up to $5 billion a year for contributions to scholarships families could use to send their children to private schools or to purchase educational materials and services.

The push to include the proposal was reportedly a sticking point in negotiations. In an apparent attempt at compromise, the new proposal McConnell released Tuesday would not establish the program permanently, as Cruz had sought, instead establishing the tax credits for two years.

The bill would also authorize “emergency education freedom grants,” state-administered scholarships families could use for private school tuition or other services if their children’s education is interrupted by the pandemic.

And it would allow families to use funds from tax-advantaged 529 savings plans, typically used to cover college or private school tuition, to pay for home-schooling expenses.

Liability Protections for Schools

The new proposal includes McConnell’s plan to provide enhanced liability protections for businesses and public entities, including schools,

Under the bill’s language, a civil suit would have to prove that an organization or business was not “making reasonable efforts” to abide by government guidance on responding to COVID-19 or that it had committed “gross negligence or willful misconduct” in failing to take virus precautions.

Education Week wrote more about liability concerns for schools here.


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

Events

Teaching Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: How Educators Can Respond to a Post-Truth Era
How do educators break through the noise of disinformation to teach lessons grounded in objective truth? Join to find out.
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
The 4 Biggest Challenges of MTSS During Remote Learning: How Districts Are Adapting
Leaders share ways they have overcome the biggest obstacles of adapting a MTSS or RTI framework in a hybrid or remote learning environment.
Content provided by Panorama Education
Student Well-Being Online Summit Keeping Students and Teachers Motivated and Engaged
Join experts to learn how to address teacher morale, identify students with low engagement, and share what is working in remote learning.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Join us for our NBOE 2021 Winter Teacher Virtual Interview Fair!
Newark, New Jersey
Newark Public Schools
Join us for our NBOE 2021 Winter Teacher Virtual Interview Fair!
Newark, New Jersey
Newark Public Schools
Superintendent, Dublin Unified School District
Dublin, California (US)
Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates
Superintendent, Dublin Unified School District
Dublin, California (US)
Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: January 13, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read