NSBA urges Senate to beef up K-12 funding in HEALS Act

The National School Boards Association and other leading education advocacy groups on July 30 wrote to U.S. Senate leadership asking the lawmakers to beef up the K-12 funding in that chamber’s newest pandemic response bill. The letter from NSBA, the superintendents’ association and other groups also strongly opposes basing relief funding on whether schools will reopen in-person for the 2020-21 school year.

The Senate HEALS (Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools) Act appropriates $69.2 billion for K-12 schools, based on a state’s proportion of Title I students. A third of that money would be required to be released to local school districts within two weeks of being allocated to the state. The remaining two-thirds of the funds would be released only after a school district submitted its reopening plan to its Governor, who would be required to approve the plan. The House HEROES Act has $58 billion for K-12 not determined by reopening plans. 

KASB, the State Board of Education and other advocacy groups have requested Congress provide at least $175 billion in stimulus funding for K-12 public schools.  

Under the HEALS Act, school districts that plan to provide in-person instruction for at least half of their students and in which students will physically attend school at least half of the school week would have their plans automatically approved by their Governor. If a district plans for remote learning only, it would not receive any of the two-thirds funding set aside by the HEALS Act. This provision reflects statements by President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos encouraging schools to open in person this fall.  

The HEALS Act contains no funding to help close the “homework gap,” which is the term used to describe inequitable student access to broadband internet service and compatible devices. KASB supports Congressional efforts to close the homework gap by allocating $4 billion to the E-Rate program. A June 2020 study found that more than 150,000 Kansas students lack adequate access to home broadband internet service.

“We urge the Senate to significantly increase the funding level for K-12 education to ensure the long-term economic health of our nation and to help schools safely start the academic year,” the letter states.

“We also call on the Senate to include $4 billion in one-time emergency funding to the Federal Communications Commission’s E-rate program to quickly and efficiently support public and private schools and public libraries in their efforts to ensure students have internet access at home this coming school year.”

KASB continues to monitor Congressional negotiations.

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