Trump Admin, Senate GOP Eye Tying School Aid To Reopening In Next Funding Bill

Screengrab / @joshtpm / Twitter

JakeThomas

Coronavirus funding for the country's schools could be tied to whether they reopen this fall.

According to The Washington Post, the White House and Senate Republicans are looking to coerce schools into reopening this fall by “attaching incentives or conditions to tens of billions of dollars of new aid as part of the next coronavirus relief bill, people involved in the talks said Wednesday."

  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is slated to unveil legislation next week that The Post said would serve as a starting point for negotiations on Congress’ final major COVID spending bill before the upcoming election.
  • The bill “may include somewhere between $50 billion and $100 billion for elementary and secondary schools, with one person familiar with the talks saying the target was about $70 billion.” Negotiators are also looking for another “$20 billion to $30 billion for higher education.”
  • But lawmakers want to use the funds as incentive for schools to reopen — a matter that increasingly has become the focus for President Trump and Vice President Pence.

They argue that children are far better off, academically and emotionally, when they are physically present in school. Many parents cannot go to work if their children are at home. Some observers also see a political imperative for Trump to portray the country as recovering from the coronavirus crisis.

  • The Post noted that despite Trump’s insistence that all schools reopen, “a number of school districts are planning to begin with online-only learning at first or with a hybrid approach combining online instruction and classroom learning.”
  • Trump threatened to withhold funding last week from schools that fail to reopen amid coronavirus concerns.
  • According to the report, “Some White House officials are pushing for conditioning the aid on schools reopening partly or fully, but others involved prefer to offer incentives to schools to take steps to reopen.”
  • On Wednesday, McConnell said on the matter: “It can be safely done and so you have to weigh the consequences. What are the consequences of staying home versus being back in school? Clearly, even though some school districts out West are shutting down again, I think all the evidence indicates that distance learning for kids is not as good. They’ve already lost part of the last semester, [and] we need to find a way to safely get back to work.”

The Post reported that details on the upcoming legislation remain sketchy:

It is unclear how congressional Republicans would try to define whether schools are sufficiently open to qualify for funding. Another question is whether the rules should be different depending on the number of coronavirus cases in a geographic area and who will decide whether a reopening plan is sufficient.

Also unclear is whether the legislation will offer extra funding for schools that reopen in a certain way or will reduce the allocation for districts that do not open, said one senior Senate GOP aide, also speaking on the condition of anonymity. “There are those who would rather incentivize good behavior, and others want to punish bad behavior,” the aide said.

Read the full report.

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