Educators Say Emergency Funding Needed to Reopen Schools

By Andrea Sears, Public News Service
For The Post

HARRISBURG PA – Educators are calling on Congress to provide emergency funding to help public schools, closed by the COVID pandemic, reopen safely.

Many school re-openings are expected to involve, if only in part, in-person instruction and activities. The economic impact of the pandemic means local school districts in the Commonwealth could face a combined shortfall of $1 billion to cover those costs for the coming school year, experts claim.

Pennsylvania State Education Association President Rich Askey pointed out that, from social distancing in classrooms to enhanced cleaning procedures and personal protective equipment, schools will need more funding, not less.

“We’re urging Congress to invest $175 billion in education nationwide,” Askey said.

Representatives of prominent education associations in Pennsylvania released a report last month outlining steps needed to safely reopen schools. It estimates that trying to manage the crisis by cutting school budgets could eliminate up to 40,000 education jobs in the state.

Askey also noted students haven’t been in school since last March, and that has had an impact. “We’re going to need to deal with social and emotional wellness with these kids,” he emphasized. “We don’t need fewer counselors; we need more counselors. We don’t need fewer nurses; we need more nurses.”

Split schedules, or combined classroom and online learning to maintain social distancing, will require more teachers as well, he added. State lawmakers also need to step up and do their part to ensure children, teachers, and staff stay safe as schools reopen: “Finding out what their local constituents need,” as Askey put it. “Working with the governor, working with the Department of Education, to make sure that there is clarity across the board on procedures and how to open schools.”