Leading Democrats on congressional education committees have introduced an emergency aid package to help K-12 schools and colleges and universities deal with the spread of the coronavirus, which has triggered a mass closure of schools across the country.
The Supporting Students in Response to Coronavirus Act would provide $1.2 billion in mandatory funding to support K-12 and higher education institutions as they do everything from clean facilities and provide meals, to plan for extended school closure and provide mental health resources and support. Early-childhood education programs would also receive $600 million in the legislation for similar purposes.
The legislation would also direct money to students impacted by university and college closures, as well as $3 million to aid children and families through the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (which was created by Congress to help researchers and front-line providers help children and families who have experienced trauma). In total, the bill would provide $3 billion in new federal funding.
The coronavirus has upended K-12 education—most states by now have shut down their schools, and educators have rushed to try to ensure online learning opportunities are available where possible. But it’s not clear when or if this education-focused coronavirus bill will advance.
Although the House passed a coronavirus aid bill late last week that included provisions for student access to school meals and job protections for government employees like teachers, the proposal has been the subject of ongoing wrangling and could face significant opposition in the Senate, which could take up this broad bill this week. And President Donald Trump announced his support for a sweeping economic stimulus plan to stem COVID-19’s impact, which could also dominate proceedings in Congress in the near future.
For perspective on the scale of the aid proposal: Title I funding for disadvantaged students, the single largest federal program that provides funding for public schools, currently gets about $16.3 billion.
Sponsors of the Senate version of the bill include Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the top Democrat on the Senate education committee. Murray announced the legislation on March 13 and said it was also sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., the chairman of the House education committee, announced he was sponsoring companion House legislation on March 16.
“School closures are jeopardizing access to basic essentials for millions of young people and students across the country, often leaving families without many options,” Scott said in a statement about the bill. “The Supporting Students in Response to Coronavirus Act is a strong response that provides schools and students the support they need as we confront this public health emergency.”
You can read a fact sheet about the The Supporting Students in Response to Coronavirus Act here:
Photo: Servepro employee Joseph Felks cleans chairs and other items at Joyner Elementary School in Tupelo, Miss., March 11, as the Tupelo Public School District conducts a cleaning of all campuses to help combat the spread of the Coronavirus while the students are on spring break. --Thomas Wells/The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal via AP