Image via Shutterstock Reopening Schools Safely Will Require More Funding
Image via Shutterstock

Schools were already facing budget shortfalls before the COVID-19 pandemic.

If federal relief funding is not provided to cities and states facing coronavirus budget shortfalls, nearly 1 million jobs in public K-12 education could be lost, according to a report released on Monday by the American Federation of Teachers, the second-largest U.S. teachers union.

The report, titled, “A Time to Act: The Importance of Investment in Public Education and Other State and Local Services in the Time of COVID-19,” found that K-12 public schools across the country are facing a $93.5 billion budget gap going into the next school year due to decreases in tax revenues received by state and local governments. Public schools receive the majority of their funding from tax revenues.

The report warns that if Congress doesn’t help states make up the lost revenue, 962,000 teachers, teacher’s aides, and “noninstructional” aides could lose their jobs.

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That budget shortfall doesn’t include money needed to provide teachers and students with a safe learning environment this fall amid the coronavirus pandemic. The report says an additional $116.5 billion is needed “for personal protective equipment, health staffing, cleaning support and resources to address students’ needs.”

The report comes as Senate Republicans refuse to pass coronavirus relief for state and local governments.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has wrongly claimed that state and local governments mismanaged their budgets before the COVID-19 pandemic, and that they are therefore responsible for the economic trouble they find themselves in and do not deserve relief from the federal government.

The Washington Post reported on Monday that a coronavirus aid package currently under development by Senate Republicans and the White House is not expected to contain any new spending for state and local governments, and that it conditions any educational aid to states on their schools reopening — a key demand made by Donald Trump that has little support from the public.

Democrats in the House passed legislation in May that would provide $875 billion “to assist state [and local] governments with the fiscal impacts from the public health emergency caused by the coronavirus.”

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Also included in the House bill is a $90 billion “State Fiscal Stabilization Fund” that would provide grants to schools to cover such expenses as increased cleaning costs.

Senate Republicans have refused to take up that legislation.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.