Thursday, Senators Doug Jones (D-Alabama) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) led a group of their colleagues in urging Senate leadership to include robust funding for America’s schools, educators, and students in the next round of COVID-19 relief funding.
“It is not just teachers who will be impacted by these shrinking education budgets,” Jones and the other Senators wrote. “Countless cafeteria workers, school bus drivers, counselors, and other support staff are expected to take a dramatic hit during this pandemic. Our students cannot meet their full potential without the many professionals that make their schools work for them day in and day out.”
The CARES Act provided initial relief to students, schools, and educators through the Education Stabilization Fund, $13.2 billion of which is allocated to governors for distribution to K-12 schools. Education organizations are recommending a further investment of $175 billion for the Education Stabilization Fund to be divided between local education agencies and institutions of higher education.
“The U.S. economy is expected to contract by six percent in 2021, changing the lives of all Americans in dramatic ways that are not yet fully known,” Jones and the other Senators wrote. “One thing is certain however, students will still need to continue learning and progressing through school. Our nation’s teachers are crucial to ensuring that learning can continue, yet current projections expect the reductions in education spending due to the pandemic to be two and a half times worse than the lowest point of the last recession.  It is not just teachers who will be impacted by these shrinking education budgets. Countless cafeteria workers, school bus drivers, counselors, and other support staff are expected to take a dramatic hit during this pandemic. Our students cannot meet their full potential without the many professionals that make their schools work for them day in and day out.”
The letter was sent to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York).
The letter was cosigned by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Angus King (I-Maine), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii).
Murkowski was the only Republican to sign this.
On Friday, House Democrats pushed through their own version of a fifth coronavirus aid bill, the Heroes Act.
Republicans objected to that bill because it added $3 trillion additional dollar to the national debt. The U.S. debt stands at $25,312 billion. In February, before the coronavirus crisis, unemployment was 3.0 percent. April unemployment was 14.7 percent. Actual joblessness is estimated at 24 percent. 40 percent of American workers making $40,000 a year or less are out of work.
Meanwhile, COVID-19 is still killing a lot of people. 1,552 Americans lost their battle with COVID-19 on Tuesday alone. The total American dead from the global pandemic has surged to 93,533. 1,570,583 have been diagnosed with the virus.
No one knows at this point if schools will be able to open in August or not or how they will be able to operate with social distancing. Another factor is the possibility that COVID-19 related illnesses could potentially increase when flu season comes back around in late fall prompting a second shutdown.
Senator Doug Jones has represented Alabama in the U.S. Senate since 2018 after narrowly defeating former Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) in a special election. Jones faces a difficult reelection challenge in November.