Tester to Senate Leadership: Schools Can’t Afford to Lose More Teachers & Workers
Senator demands Congress prioritize public education aid in any new coronavirus relief packages
As many Montana schools resort to cutting teaching and staff positions because of budget deficiencies amid the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. Senator Jon Tester is demanding that Senate leadership prioritize robust funding for public schools in order to prevent accelerated teacher and other personnel shortages and ensure students retain access to quality educations.
In a recent letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Charles Schumer, Tester called attention to the already high level of teacher shortages across the United States—particularly in rural areas—and demanded that any new COVID-19 relief packages provide significant funding for programs that help school districts keep educators, as well as other essential members of school workforces, on staff.
“As local communities and school districts see their revenue shrink, they will be forced to look at staffing cuts, as salaries and benefits comprise the majority of school budgets,” Tester and his colleagues wrote. “… Congress must invest now to stabilize the public education sector and fill the current gaps in our education workforce and prevent an even more dire shortage in the years to come.”
The letter continues: “It is not just teachers who will be impacted by these shrinking education budgets. Countless cafeteria workers, school bus drivers, counselors, and other support staff are expected to take a dramatic hit during this pandemic. Our students cannot meet their full potential without the many professionals that make their schools work for them day in and day out.”
Tester is specifically requesting significant funding for the Education Stabilizations Fund, additional investments into Title I, and robust funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to support educators of students with disabilities. Without federal aid, many schools across Montana risk closing their doors to students as school districts are almost entirely reliant on state and local revenue.
In the 2017-2018 school year, schools in the United States lacked approximately 100,000 qualified teachers, and the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to accelerate these shortages. The Learning Policy Institute estimates that if states experience a 20 percent decline in revenue, around 460,000 educator positions will be eliminated unless the federal government intervenes.
As a former teacher and school board member, Tester has been fighting tooth and nail to ensure Montana students have the resources they need to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this month, he secured nearly $100,000 to help Montana libraries provide online services to students, and he announced more than $41 million for Montana K-12 schools to help meet the needs of students as they transition to online learning last month. He also recently announced that the Montana Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund would receive more than $8.7 million in funding to bolster education in the state.
Visit tester.senate.gov/coronavirusresources for a list of resources for Montanans during the COVID-19 outbreak.