Tester Calls for $175 Billion to Help Schools to Reopen, Address Opportunity Gaps

Senator demands leadership increase funding from only $13 billion for education stabilization amid COVID-19 pandemic

As part of his ongoing efforts to ensure that every student can access a quality education throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today led a group of colleagues in demanding that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer work to invest an additional $175 billion into education stabilization.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act dedicated about $13 billion for K-12 schools to help cover reopening costs and address opportunity gaps. Tester is calling for the additional $175 billion to ensure schools can safely and adequately open their doors in the fall while addressing gaps that prevent many students from receiving equitable educations, especially in communities where coronavirus is creating the largest barriers for learning, like Montana’s rural areas.

“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 on-going pandemic,” said Tester and his colleagues. “…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 continued: “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 CARES Act.”

Tester has heard from concerned education advocates across Montana that the $13 billion in funding provided by the CARES Act for education stabilization nationwide will not be sufficient to open schools safely and equitably. Due to the coronavirus crisis, schools have already been forced to make drastic cuts to their budgets and have seen sharp declines in access to state and local funding.

In order to safely reopen and address the unique challenges of each student, school districts will need to completely readjust protocols involving sanitation, transportation, and staffing. In addition, nutrition support, health screenings, and mental health care will need to be bolstered in schools across the country. The Association of School Superintendents estimates that the average cost per student to address coronavirus-related challenges will be $490, and for the average school district of 3,700 students, this amounts to more than $1.8 million per school district.

As a former educator and school board member, Tester has been fighting tirelessly to ensure that Montana’s schools have the resources they need to safely educate their students. He recently demanded that Congress prioritize public education aid in any new coronavirus relief packages, and he secured nearly $100,000 to help Montana libraries provide online services to students. He also announced more than $41 million for Montana K-12 schools to help meet the needs of students as they transitioned to online learning, and that the Montana Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund would receive more than $8.7 million in funding to bolster education in the state.

Read Tester’s full letter to Senate leadership HERE.

Visit tester.senate.gov/coronavirusresources for a list of resources for Montanans during the COVID-19 outbreak.