Schools that won’t reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic shouldn’t get funding from COVID-19 relief bills, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said this week.
“There shouldn’t be any federal taxpayer money of COVID relief going to schools that aren’t open. The purpose of the money is to open the schools. If the schools aren’t going to open, we shouldn’t send you the money,” Rubio said on “Fox News Primetime.”
Congress has already approved billions of dollars in relief funding to schools. President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion proposal calls for an additional $170 billion for K-12 schools and colleges.
Most of that money will be for helping schools safely reopen, according to Biden’s team.
“These funds can be used to reduce class sizes and modify spaces so students and teachers can socially distance; improve ventilation; hire more janitors and implement mitigation measures; provide personal protective equipment; ensure every school has access to a nurse; increase transportation capacity to facilitate social distancing on the bus; hire counselors to support students as they transition back to the classroom; close the digital divide that is exacerbating inequities during the pandemic; provide summer school or other support for students that will help make up lost learning time this year; create and expand community schools; and cover other costs needed to support safely reopening and support students,” the team said in a summary of the proposed package.
The rest of the funds would go to expanding the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, including giving up to an additional $1,700 in financial assistance to students, and to governors to use to support schools and students “significantly impacted by COVID-19.”
COVID-19 is the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
Another $350 billion would go to state and local governments to help avoid layoffs, including terminations of teachers.
Democrats have backed Biden’s plan, calling the funding necessary.
“We won’t bring back our economy with half-hearted measures. President Biden’s COVID-19 rescue package is exactly the kind of bold action we need to help struggling families and get kids back to school,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said in a tweet Thursday.
Schools across the country closed down early last year as the virus spread widely. But many have since reopened, with little evidence that the reopenings have led to higher virus transmission rates.
Teachers unions have resisted reopening in a number of places, arguing that proposed safety measures weren’t adequate to protect teachers against the virus.
Biden’s chief of staff on Tuesday backed the unions, noting the president’s plan.
“We need Congress to pass that plan so that we can do the kind of things you need to do so that the schools can be safe, so the students can be safe, so the teachers can be safe. Sadly, it costs money,” Ron Klain said.
“The teachers I know want to work,” Biden told reporters during a press conference. “They just want to work in a safe environment and as safely as we can make it. And we should be able to open up every school, kindergarten through eighth grade, if we administer these tests.”
Funding would go for things like ventilation systems and testing for teachers and students, he said.
The support for unions drew criticism from Republicans.
“Latest example of Biden caving to the Left: He pledged to reopen schools. But yesterday he sided with the radical Chicago teachers union that wants to keep schools closed,” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) said. “When will he start standing up to these liberal special interest unions blocking kids from classrooms?”