Four months ago, the House passed the HEROES Act, a comprehensive COVID-19 relief package, including $58 billion for schools. This funding is needed to ensure a safe return for our students, teachers, and staff. Efforts to call on the Senate to pass the HEROES Act are described in a September 3rd piece for the San Diego Union-Tribune posted below:
San Diego congressional and school leaders again call for more school funding
Pandemic costs for San Diego Unified this school year are estimated between $120 and $150 million
By Kristen Taketa
September 3rd, 2020
San Diego school and congressional leaders are calling on the Senate to pass the HEROES Act coronavirus aid package because it contains billions in school aid they say is needed for schools to safely reopen.
The HEROES Act has stalled in the Senate since the House passed it in mid-May. As passed by the House, the act would provide $58 billion in direct aid to K-12 schools, along with $915 billion in aid to state and local governments, which proponents say would help prevent state education cuts.
“We’re asking the Senate to get off their butts and pass the bill. We’re asking the president to sign it,” said Rep. Juan Vargas (D-San Diego).
In July, the Senate proposed its own coronavirus relief bill, the HEALS Act, that would provide $70 billion in aid for K-12 schools. It would make two-thirds of the aid contingent on physically reopening and it would not provide additional budget aid for state and local governments, according to Education Week.
Progress on any coronavirus relief deal between the two houses has stalled for months.
U.S. Representatives Susan Davis, Scott Peters and Vargas, all Democrats who represent parts of San Diego County, joined San Diego Unified Superintendent Cindy Marten, school board members and others at a press conference Thursday morning calling for the HEROES Act to become law.
Even though all schools in San Diego County are allowed to reopen, San Diego Unified is one of many districts that remain closed, partly because it doesn’t believe it’s safe yet to reopen.
The state’s second-largest district also says it doesn’t have enough money to afford the extra safety measures it will need to fully reopen, like better air filters for all classrooms and more staff to shrink student group sizes.
While California public schools are receiving the same amount of state funding they did last school year, the state will defer millions of school dollars and schools are seeing additional costs due to the pandemic.
San Diego Unified now estimates that the costs of reopening and of expanding distance learning will total $120 to $150 million for this school year. The district’s total budget is about $1.5 billion.
That includes paying for equipment like computers, WiFi hotspots, educational software licensing, outfitting classrooms with higher-quality air filters and masks. It also includes paying for more nurses, counselors, custodians and special education aides, as well as bus drivers, since buses will need to transport smaller groups of students, said Richard Barrera, San Diego Unified school board vice president.
San Diego Unified will begin its first phase of reopening late this month, bringing back up to 12,000 elementary students with high needs for in-person support. The second reopening phase will depend on the success of the first phase.