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Expect About $105 Billion for Education in Virus Deal, D.C. ‘Insiders’ Tell Survey

By Andrew Ujifusa — August 21, 2020 2 min read
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A poll of Beltway “insiders” found that most believe any future coronavirus relief package will provide something close to the $105 billion in education aid that Senate Republicans have proposed, including $70 billion for K-12 education.

The survey conducted by Whiteboard Advisors of 50 to 75 current and former congressional staff, White House, U.S. Department of Education leaders, and other education officials also found that most of those people believe we’ll have to wait several more weeks before a deal is struck on the next aid deal, well into the 2020-21 school year.

First, here’s the full breakdown of answers to Whiteboard’s question about the amount of education funding in the next relief package:

But will there be another relief package from Washington in the first place? Whiteboard asked that question, too. In response, approximately 77 percent of the insiders said that there will be, but that Congress won’t pass it until the end of September. Another 12 percent said yes, but that it won’t take place until after the election, and 4 percent said it won’t be until 2021. And as for the real pessimists: 8 percent said there won’t be a “Phase 4" coronavirus package at all.

The number of people surveyed by Whiteboard, which regularly does polls of education staffers and officials, isn’t huge. And a lot can change in a few days or hours in Washington. But it might reflect a growing consensus about how negotiations will play out.

The Senate Republicans’ HEALS Act would provide $70 billion to K-12 schools, $30 billion to higher education, and $5 billion for governors to spend on both at their discretion. As we mentioned above, two-thirds of the K-12 money would be conditioned on whether schools provide a plan to provide some face-to-face instruction, a proviso that Democrats have declared dead on arrival. HEALS does not provide direct aid to state and local governments that could offset cuts those governments make to school budgets.

A “skinny” version of that bill floated by Republicans earlier this week did not alter the basic education funding structure and amounts in HEALS.

A virus bill written by Democrats and passed by the House in May would provide schools $58 billion in direct aid, but more than $900 billion in state and local government aid. The HEALS Act does not provide any such aid. The Whiteboard survey did not ask about possible outcomes for state and local government assistance.

Education officials, lobbyists, and other lawmakers have asked for much more in direct aid for schools than what’s in the House or Senate bills. Perhaps the largest ask is from House Democrats—made after that May bill passed the House—who’ve said K-12 public schools should get $305 billion.

Read more results from the Whiteboard survey, which also touches on challenges in reopening schools and other issues.

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