Brown, Colleagues Call for Increased Funding For Schools and Education Support Professionals Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

Washington, D.C. – Last week, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) joined 18 of his Senate colleagues in calling for increased federal funding for schools and school employees, such as cafeteria staff, bus drivers, and custodians, who are working overtime to support their communities during the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. As the pandemic continues, schools are continuing to provide essential services in their communities, from providing meals to implementing distance learning to serving as community hubs. Given these demands, the senators wrote to Senate appropriators to request additional funding for schools and their employees.

“From offering distance learning to converting their buildings into food distribution centers for low income families and childcare facilities for children of health care workers and emergency responders—school staff are an essential part of a multi-faceted response to the unprecedented challenges of the coronavirus,” wrote the senators. “We request that you provide funds to compensate classified hourly workers, such as cafeteria staff, school bus drivers, and janitorial staff, who are serving in various capacities as front line responders to the coronavirus outbreak. We need to assist those who are expanding the ways in which they carry forward the mission and vision of our public schools.”

Across the country, many schools whose budgets were already stretched thin have stepped up to respond to the pandemic by not only adapting to the challenges of distance learning, but also by expanding outreach in their communities by providing healthy meals to students and families, updating parents and guardians as the pandemic evolves, and adopting more rigorous cleaning practices to limit the virus’ spread. Increased federal funding is essential to ensuring schools nationwide can continue this vital work.

“The health and safety of our school communities is of the greatest concern right now. The federal government must offer additional funds to comprehensively cover school staff’s response to this emergency and support their efforts to promote the long-term health of our communities. These workers are an essential part of our emergency response to COVID-19 and the virus presents a grave danger to their health. We must invest in their wellbeing to ensure they remain part of our pandemic mitigation efforts and continue to sustain the health, safety, and support of our students, families, and communities,” the senators concluded.

In addition to Brown, the letter was also signed by U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Ed Markey (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Tina Smith (D-MN), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Bob Menendez (D-NJ).

The text of the letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, HHS, Education & Related Agencies is available HERE and below.

Dear Chairman Blunt and Ranking Member Murray:

We write to request additional funding for schools and school staff that are continuing to provide assistance during the Coronavirus outbreak.

As the novel coronavirus spreads into more American communities, school leaders, teachers, and school support staff are working to meet the urgent challenges that widespread school closures and social distancing present. From offering distance learning to converting their buildings into food distribution centers for low income families and childcare facilities for children of health care workers and emergency responders—school staff are an essential part of a multi-faceted response to the unprecedented challenges of the coronavirus.

We request that you provide funds to compensate classified hourly workers, such as cafeteria staff, school bus drivers, and janitorial staff, who are serving in various capacities as front line responders to the coronavirus outbreak. 

We need to assist those who are expanding the ways in which they carry forward the mission and vision of our public schools. Schools for instance, need additional cleaning products and personal protective equipment (PPE) such as respiratory masks. Workers need training for how to safely use new chemical cleaners and effectively wear PPE. We also need to ensure schools can continue to function as a central hub for our communities, especially those with the greatest needs, providing essential daily nutrition, developing plans for how student learning will be maintained, and disseminating information to parents and guardians on how best to support their children and families during this challenging time.

As our nation responds to the calls for social distancing to stymie the virus’s spread, school support staff continue to be the backbone of our communities.  Cafeteria workers prepare and serve meals daily to students and their families; school bus drivers transport meals throughout districts; custodial, maintenance, and skilled trades staff work to maintain, clean, and disinfect school buildings that continue to render services to the community. Clerical and technical staff manage the logistical, administrative, and tech service systems of schools and are called upon to respond with solutions to the evolving needs of school administrators focused on equitable district/state-wide transitions to distance learning. Health and student service staff, as well as paraeducators and security officers, will be critical voices to the development and implementation of plans to ensure the health and safety of all students, ensuring they receive what they need to succeed academically and socially.

The health and safety of our school communities is of the greatest concern right now. The federal government must offer additional funds to comprehensively cover school staff’s response to this emergency and support their efforts to promote the long-term health of our communities. These workers are an essential part of our emergency response to COVID-19 and the virus presents a grave danger to their health. We must invest in their wellbeing to ensure they remain part of our pandemic mitigation efforts and continue to sustain the health, safety, and support of our students, families, and communities. 

We strongly urge you to act on this important matter.

Sincerely,

 

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