How Senate Republicans Spent Their Summer Vacation (Spoiler: Largely Doing Nothing)

You cannot wish away a pandemic by ignoring it, and you cannot hope for good public health. And our nation’s leaders most certainly should not be rolling the dice when it comes to balancing how to make sure the nation’s young people get the education they need, and that they and their teachers stay safe and healthy in the process.

Yet parents, teachers and school administrators are navigating how to safely reopen schools largely on their own as the federal government has failed to provide needed resources.

To be clear, Democrats acted but the Senate failed to follow through. The House passed the HEROES Act in May — near the end of the last school year — and it’s been sitting on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s desk all summer. The measure provides more than $1 trillion for state, local and tribal governments, of which $915 billion is flexible funding that can be used as needed to address area-specific responses to the health and economic crisis.

For instance, states could direct money toward hiring more teachers to accommodate smaller class sizes, adding more buses and drivers to adapt to social distancing, and providing PPE, like hand sanitizing stations and cloth face masks, which FEMA announced yesterday it will stop funding.

Instead, the continued dearth of state and local relief has made safely reopening schools nearly impossible to do without cutting critical services, enacting massive layoffs and making it even more difficult for students to access quality education. The Trump administration — hyper-focused on having states reopen, regardless of health and safety precautions — is using the reopening of schools to send parents back to work and tell more lies about the economy.

Republican senators’ answer to the HEROES Act was the HEALS Act, wholly inadequate legislation that failed to give states the resources they need to plug budget holes — and keep students safe. Trump and his allies may hope this pandemic goes away on its own, but we ordinary people need more than a wishing well. We need adequate federal leadership and funding. The HEROES Act provides that.

Today, parents, students, teachers, school staff and community activists are standing together in a nationwide movement to demand safe schools and state and local aid to protect our jobs, our economy and our futures.

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