WASHINGTON - July 23, 2020 - With the start of the school year approaching, and the coronavirus surging out of control, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s inaction and the GOP’s disarray continue to hurt students, educators and communities while keeping parents in limbo and school districts scrambling with contingency plans. The chaos coming out of McConnell’s office multiplies the confusion Americans have experienced from President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, as they’ve proven they have no real plan to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, the ensuing economic crisis or the shutdown of school buildings that are too unsafe to resume in-person learning.
The following statement can be attributed to NEA President Lily Eskelsen García:
“It has been more than 10 weeks since the House of Representatives passed the HEROES Act, a sweeping COVID-19 relief package that would provide desperately needed support for students and public schools. In that time, educators and parents have advocated endlessly for common sense solutions and resources to ensure students succeed in the midst of a health and economic crisis.
“During that same period, however, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has done absolutely nothing but stall the HEROES Act, go on a prolonged summer vacation, and squander critical time to safely and equitably reopen school buildings. And now he seems set on introducing a partisan bill that he knows won’t even pass in the Senate where he controls a majority. Educators and parents want nothing more than schools to open, but McConnell fails time and again to lead. Meanwhile, panicked teachers are writing their wills as they’re being threatened and forced to return to unsafe school building, school districts are scrambling with contingency plans, and stressed-out parents are left in limbo. Most important, traumatized students aren’t receiving equitable tools and resources from the federal government that they need to be successful in this time of unprecedented crisis.
“The National Education Association has consistently stated at least $175 billion is needed for schools to open in a way that will support student learning while keeping students and educators safe. Not only did the HEROES Act provide significant education funding to help accomplish this, it also had almost $1 trillion for state and local governments to address devastating budget gaps. Instead of acting, McConnell stamped this bill dead on arrival in the Senate and refused to bring it to the Senate floor. When Senate Democrats proposed $430 billion for education and childcare, McConnell was nowhere to be found.
“Instead, we now hear that McConnell plans to introduce a bill with no significant state and local aid. Not only is he failing to support students, educators and parents, but he also is pushing for a vouchers scheme to steal even more funding from public schools to give to private schools. His plan is expected to hold some school funding hostage unless school buildings are open — when health and safety should be the guiding force behind those locally made decisions. With the liability shield that he’s promoting, he shows us that he cares more about cutting corners than ensuring the safety of students and educators.
“McConnell and the GOP leadership are simply playing politics with the lives of America’s students, educators and parents. And with the start of the school year just weeks away, he’s wasting precious time. To Mitch McConnell, we say this: Do your job, quit playing politics, start negotiating and pass legislation that isn’t full of callous catches, caveats and carve outs. Do something productive to help our students, educators and schools.”
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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.