House Passes HEROES Act: Includes Billions for Schools and Colleges

WASHINGTON, 15 May 2020 — The House of Representatives today passed the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act or “HEROES Act.” The National Education Association — which represents more than 3 million educators working in U.S. public schools colleges and universities — has been tirelessly pushing Congress to pass relief legislation. While this bill 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 House passage of the HEROES Act comes just days after a coalition of five governors said that state and local governments needed $1 trillion in federal relief or they will be forced to decide between funding public health care programs or laying off teachers, police and other workers

The following statement can be attributed to NEA President Lily Eskelsen García:

“We applaud the House of Representatives for passing the HEROES Act and ask Senators to prioritize our students, educators, and their communities by also passing COVID-19 relief that includes dedicated funding for public education. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed and exacerbated the growing inequalities too many students — especially in communities of color and rural areas — have faced for far too long. That’s why Congress must find solutions that finally work for our most vulnerable students.

“We’re already seeing the devastating effects of this economic crisis hit public education as states slash their budgets. Colorado is looking at a $3.3 billion shortfall due to lost revenue from the coronavirus crisis. The governor of Ohio announced at least $300 million reduction in K-12 public-school funding. Houston schools are currently planning for $200 million in budget cuts. It is only a matter of time before these cuts spread across the country, negatively impacting schools that are headed for a funding cliff as local and state revenues dry up. If the Senate does not act quickly, the consequences are dire.

“When school buildings are reopened, it must be an all-hands-on-deck approach. Teachers and education support professionals are essential workers who keep our school buildings and campuses clean and safe. Yet threatening furloughs and layoffs mean class sizes will balloon — all while we need to maintain social distancing for public safety — and already overworked guidance counselors will be stretched even thinner as kids grapple with mental health issues worsened by the coronavirus pandemic. School nurses, speech pathologists, paraeducators, and our support professionals will no longer be available to help because budget cuts forced their layoffs.

“Congress must act now to protect our children from the harmful effects of these extreme budget cuts at the state and local levels. We urge the Senate to pass this vital relief legislation because the American economy cannot recover if schools can’t reopen, and we cannot properly reopen schools if funding is slashed and students don’t have what they need to be safe, learn and succeed.”

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