Wyden, Merkley: $175 Billion Education Investment Urgently Needed to Save the 2020-2021 School Year & U.S. Economy

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley said today that Congress and the Trump Administration must provide at least $175 billion in additional federal funding to help K-12 students in Oregon and nationwide safely return to the classroom this fall.

Without swift, comprehensive congressional action, it will be impossible for America’s 100,000 K-12 public schools — which are already facing severe budget cuts — to adequately prepare to protect students, teachers, staff, families, and the community from the spread of COVID-19 in the coming academic year, Wyden and Merkley wrote in a letter with 39 of their colleagues.

“There can be no economic recovery in either the short term or the long term unless we make the investments necessary to safely reopen schools and ensure continuity of education during the ongoing pandemic,” the senators wrote Senate leadership.  “If schools are unable to reopen safely, it will be nearly impossible for many parents and caregivers to return to work.  Moreover, the long-term consequences of sustained educational disruption could also hold this generation back, affecting students’ quality of life and weakening our nation.  

“We must take urgent action to ensure that schools are ready and able to educate children this fall and redouble our efforts to close opportunity gaps that are far too prevalent in the communities suffering the greatest health and economic harm from the impact of COVID-19,” the senators wrote. “As such, we ask that you include at least an additional $175 billion in dedicated funding for the Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief Fund that was established under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.”

The CARES Act provided a much-needed $30.75 billion down payment on education funding, but not nearly enough to help cover the additional costs from this school year while also ensuring that schools nationwide will be ready to safely reopen in the fall.  Under the law, $13.5 billion went to K-12 emergency relief grants, while $13.95 billion was made available for a Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund for colleges and universities, with the remaining $2.95 billion directed to an Education Stabilization Fund for disbursement to governors.

In addition to Wyden and Merkley, the letter led by U.S. Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) is signed by U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) Tim Kaine, (D-VA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Margaret Wood Hassan (D-NH), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA), Tina Smith (D-MN), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Edward Markey (D-MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) Tom Udall (D-NM), Gary Peters (D-MI), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Kyrsten Sinema (D-NV) Mark Warner (D-VA) Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Angus S. King (I-ME), Jon Tester (D-MT), Tom Carper (D-DE), Chris Coons (D-DE), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Chris Murphy (D-CT).

Full text is here of the letter.

A web version of this release is here.