Washington, D.C. — Today, the American Federation of Teachers, Center for American Progress, Education Reform Now, The Education Trust, and the National Education Association joined a coalition of more than 70 organizations that sent a letter to leaders in Congress appealing for support needed as states grapple with the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.
In the letter, the stakeholders voice support for state leaders’ request for $500 billion in state stabilization funding—with at least $250 billion in funding dedicated to K-12 education, higher education, and programs designed to support students from marginalized communities. The letter also calls on Congress to greatly expand access to broadband and online connectivity; strengthen school nutrition and other food assistance programs; create and fund a separate, voluntary program to make up for lost learning time; and address the need for increased academic, social-emotional, and physical supports for students, educators, and families in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis.
“In the absence of immediate, significant federal investment in a state stabilization fund, particularly given the public health requirements for reopening, we won’t be able to meet the needs of students, patients, and other people we serve. Without these funds, the teachers and school staff who educated, engaged, and took care of our kids and delivered them meals will lose their jobs; the nurses in public hospitals who sat with dying patients will see their hours cut or their facilities closed; and the public employees who transported critical patients and supplies will be out of work,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.
“Access to quality educational opportunities were inequitable prior to the pandemic, but higher unemployment, lower revenues, and pending state budget cuts threaten to exacerbate these inequities. It is vital for Congress to provide states robust education stimulus to avoid starving students and educators of the resources they desperately need. Failing to do so will undermine our economic recovery by encouraging mass layoffs, cutting compensation for our already underpaid teacher workforce, eliminating essential learning programs, and massively increasing tuition at public two- and four-year colleges and universities,” said Neera Tanden, president and CEO of the Center for American Progress.
“While the novel coronavirus has caused undue hardship and loss to so many of our communities, it has exacerbated preexisting inequities, causing our highest-need students to face even greater barriers to success. Now more than ever, we need funding and resources targeted to our historically underserved students to combat the effects of prolonged school closures—with a particular focus on increasing access to quality distance learning and supporting students’ academic, emotional, and physical well-being in transitioning back into the classroom,” said Shavar Jeffries, president of Education Reform Now.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating the existing inequities in our nation’s education system for the students and families who are most underserved. We need immediate federal investment to prevent damaging cuts and to give states, schools, and higher education institutions the additional resources they need to address distance learning and lack of reliable internet access; summer school and expanded learning time; food insecurity; and socio-emotional and mental health needs during this crisis. Congress must do more to protect our students and the nation’s future prosperity,” said John B. King Jr., president and CEO of The Education Trust.
“Talk to any educator who has been teaching while school buildings are closed, and they’ll tell you that nothing is more important than the safety and well-being of all students. We also know that our economy cannot recover if we can’t reopen our schools, and we cannot properly reopen schools if funding is slashed and students don’t have what they need to be safe, learn, and succeed. Schools across the country are headed for a funding cliff that we know will exist as local and state revenues dry up. When school buildings are reopened, we need to be all hands on deck. Teachers and education support professionals are essential workers and vital to keeping our school buildings and campuses clean and safe. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed and exacerbated the unfortunate long-standing inequities facing our most vulnerable students—whether in urban, rural, or suburban areas. Congress must act now by providing additional money to the education stabilization fund that will help maintain these essential workers for students,” said Lily Eskelsen García, president of the 3 million-member National Education Association.
Please click here to read the letter.
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