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Educators and parents join to tell Congress to support students now

NEA releases poll data and launches national campaign, including million-dollar ad buy


WASHINGTON - May 14, 2020 -

Leaders from two of the largest and most influential education organizations, the National Education Association and the National PTA, along with teachers and education support professionals who continue to serve students during the coronavirus pandemic, joined together in a national media call. They addressed the pressing issues facing students, families and educators, including what’s needed from Congress as elected officials discuss transitioning to in-person learning for the 2020-21 academic year.

Data from a new nationwide poll, conducted on behalf of NEA, shows 9 in 10 parents and guardians expressed extremely positive views of educators. At the same time, they’re concerned about the support for educators and families to cope with distance learning. Polling of NEA members shows the top concern of educators in this time of crisis is supporting students, specifically to provide the same level of education to students as they receive from face-to-face instruction. Closely following is their concern around teaching students with disabilities remotely. Further, the polling shows a stark gap for students living in poverty. Educators who work in schools with higher levels of poverty report lower class attendance on virtual platforms, and feel distance learning will be less effective for their students. They believe that closing inequity and opportunity gaps must be a top priority.

“The partnership between parents and educators is so important, especially in this time of crisis. Educators’ number-one concern is the safety, well-being and success of our students,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and exacerbated the inequities facing our most vulnerable students and with the economic downturn now threatening the future of public schools, parents and educators are standing together because we cannot wait. Our nation’s students cannot pay the price in this crisis.”

As Americans brace for what could be the worst economic downturn in U.S. history, educators and parents are demanding that Congress act quickly to support students and provide the federal funding they need to succeed. Estimates of state revenue shortfalls range from $500 billion from the National Governors Association and Economic Policy Institute to $650 billion over 3 years, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. School finance experts also predict that hundreds of thousands of education jobs could be lost — impacting the education of millions of students — absent federal intervention.

“COVID-19 has had a significant impact on and presented many challenges for students, families, teachers and schools,” said Leslie Boggs, president of National PTA. “It is critical that Congress address the needs of students, families and schools and specifically provide funding to ensure all students can connect to the internet to continue their education during this time as well as provide emergency funding for the Statewide Family Engagement Centers grant program. Emergency funding for family engagement during this health crisis will help teachers be the conduit for learning at home and provide families with simple and effective activities they can do with their children, so that families aren’t overwhelmed by the myriad of resources available.”

This week, House Democrats introduced a new coronavirus relief bill, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act or “HEROES Act,” to provide more resources for students and educators through vital funding for public schools and communities combatting the coronavirus crisis. While this legislation isn’t perfect, it includes $100 billion specifically for K-12 and higher education along with $915 billion in state and local aid to address budget gaps that could be used to help public schools and college campuses.

The bill goes a step in the right direction by providing $1.5 billion to address the “digital divide,” which is impacting far too many students — especially in communities of color and rural areas — and contributing to compounded learning losses that education experts are calling the “homework gap.” Educators and parents are asking House members to pass this legislation quickly and calling on Senators to support at least this level of funding for students. Without this support, educators anticipate devastating budget cuts at a time when students already are suffering the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis.

“Many students will return with emotional trauma and require a period of adjustment as they reintegrate into the rhythm of being back in school. Adequate social and emotional supports for both staff and students will be needed,” said Lara Center, an elementary school library aide in the Denver suburbs. “School counselors, social workers, nurses, health room aides, teacher aides and other school employees will be necessary to navigate the new normal. This all has to happen as Colorado is looking at a $3.3 billion shortfall due to lost revenue from the COVID crisis. Our school district is facing potentially tens of millions of dollars in cuts to an already critically underfunded system. Those budgets cuts will certainly hurt our students.”

NEA will be putting the full weight of its 3 million members behind a national advocacy campaign on behalf of students and public schools. This week, NEA launched a multi-million dollar broadcast television, cable and digital ad buy to lift up the power of public schools in every community, and to push Congress to provide students the resources they need to succeed. The first ad, titled School is Where the Heart Is, directs viewers to take action at nea.org/covidaction around the coronavirus relief legislation. This campaiIn is scheduled to run through May 31, with new videos in rotation that will directly target key legislators around the House and Senate votes.

“Our elementary school was able to give laptops and Chrome books to our students when we transitioned to distance learning, but having a computer is only part of the equation,” said Krystal Ash-Cuthbert, a fifth-grade teacher at Wentworth School in Scarborough, Maine. “Many of my students have parents who are essential workers reporting to their jobs at the local grocery stores, fast food restaurants and other front lines. The children in these families are likely to experience less at-home support around distance learning. The disparities between the haves and the have-nots is growing exponentially during this crisis.”

NEA’s intensive advocacy campaign kicks off with a tele-townhall featuring Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.), and award-winning actor Bradley Whitford, as well as thousands of education activists, to discuss what is at stake for students and communities. Over the course of the coming weeks, NEA will be organizing virtual #RedForEd rallies across the country and engaging educators and parents in tens of thousands of phone calls and emails to Congress, telling lawmakers to put politics aside and provide emergency funding for students now.

More resources are available at nea.org/coronavirus.

Follow on twitter at @NEAmedia, @Lily_NEA and @NationalPTA

Keep up with the conversation on social media at #ProtectAllWorkers and #RedForEd

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About the National Education Association: The National Education Association is the nation's largest professional employee organization, representing more than 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators, students preparing to become teachers, healthcare workers, and public employees. Learn more at www.nea.org.

About the National PTA National PTA® comprises millions of families, students, teachers, administrators, and business and community leaders devoted to the educational success of children and the promotion of family engagement in schools. PTA is a registered 501(c) (3) nonprofit association that prides itself on being a powerful voice for all children, a relevant resource for families and communities, and a strong advocate for public education. Membership in PTA is open to anyone who wants to be involved and make a difference for the education, health and welfare of children and youth. For more information, visit PTA.org.

CONTACT:

Staci Maiers, NEA
202-270-5333 cell, smaiers@nea.org

Heidi May Wilson, National PTA
614-570-3922 cell, hmay@pta.org


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