May 19, 2020
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) joined a bipartisan group of 27 colleagues in urging Senate leadership to include funding for America’s schools, educators, and students in the next round of coronavirus relief funding. In a letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, the senators highlighted the impact of the coronavirus crisis on education budgets and emphasized the importance of supporting public education through the pandemic.
“We continue to see the challenges our states and school districts face on a daily basis and the impact this pandemic will have on education budgets over the next 18 months,” wrote King and his colleagues. “Less than 1% of the CARES Act funding was specifically dedicated to supporting public schools. This is insufficient to stabilize education through this crisis. We are particularly concerned about how the educator workforce and other school personnel will be impacted by COVID-19.”
“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,” they continued.
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 $175 billion for the Education Stabilization Fund to be divided between local education agencies and institutions of higher education.
Senator King has remained mindful of the needs of Maine’s educators, students and school workforce since the coronavirus rose as a major threat to Americans health and lives – holding several teleconferences to ensure he remains fully aware of their evolving challenges and needs. Just last week, Senator King joined a video conference with the 16 educators who are being honored as Maine’s 2020 County Teachers of the Year. Earlier this month, Senator King participated in a teleconference with the Maine Jump$tart Coalition, to recognize two financial educators: Ms. Raelene Allen of Madison High School, and Ms. Samantha Drost of Central Aroostook High School. In April, Senator King joined a video conference call with civics and history teachers from schools across Maine to discuss their adaption to distance learning.
As the coronavirus pandemic has caused cancellations of schools across the nation, Senator King has pushed to ensure Maine’s teachers and students have all the tools they need to make the most of distance learning. Last month, he joined a group of colleagues in a letter to House and Senate leadership requesting sufficient funding for all K-12 students to have adequate home internet connectivity if their schools close due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. In March, Senator King joined a group of his colleagues in calling on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to temporarily allow schools to utilize E-Rate program funding to provide Wi-Fi hotspots or devices with Wi-Fi capability to students who lack internet access at home. Earlier in March, Senator King sent a letter to the CEOs of eight major internet service providers (ISPs), calling on the companies to take steps to accommodate the unprecedented reliance we will likely see on telepresence services, including telework, online education, telehealth, and remote support services; in response to Senator King’s letter, several major ISPs took action to better support these remote technologies.
In addition to Sen. King, the letter was signed by Senators Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), 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.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii).
The full letter can be read below and downloaded HERE.
Dear Majority Leader McConnell and Minority Leader Schumer:
We write to urge you to include, in any upcoming legislation designed to provide additional relief to Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic, significant additional support for our nation’s schools. While the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act included an Education Stabilization Fund to provide immediate support, we continue to see the challenges our states and school districts face on a daily basis and the impact this pandemic will have on education budgets over the next 18 months. Less than 1% of the CARES Act funding was specifically dedicated to supporting public schools. This is insufficient to stabilize education through this crisis. We are particularly concerned about how the educator workforce and other school personnel will be impacted by COVID-19.
School districts rely almost entirely on state and local revenue. Low-wealth districts rely the most heavily on state aid and will be most impacted by the economic implications of this crisis. It is our duty to ensure that children receive the education they are rightfully entitled to. Students cannot learn if their schools are forced to downsize operations, eliminate teaching positions in critical subjects, or lay off other critical support staff such as social workers and counselors, due to depleted budgets.
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. 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.
As local communities and school districts see their revenue shrink, they will be forced to look at staffing cuts, as salaries and benefits comprise the majority of school budgets. As a result of this crisis, Learning Policy Institute estimates that if states experience a 20% decline in revenue, without federal intervention, about 460,000 educator positions will be eliminated.  Congress must invest now to stabilize the public education sector and fill the current gaps in our education workforce and prevent an even more dire shortage in the years to come.
In addition to focusing on our educator workforce in any upcoming economic relief package, we urge you to continue to help schools to address learning loss facing our most disadvantaged students and ensure that all students with disabilities can continue to access the Free Appropriate Public Education to which they are entitled. We therefore urge you to provide substantial, flexible additional investments through Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Finally, if the next funding package includes infrastructure provisions, we urge you to explicitly include K-12 schools as eligible recipients for funds.
Thank you for your consideration of this important matter.