March 20, 2020

Wyden Calls for Increased Funding for Schools and Education Support Professionals Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today called for increased federal funding for schools and school employees, such as cafeteria staff, bus drivers, and custodians, who are working overtime to support their communities during the coronavirus pandemic.

As the pandemic continues, schools are continuing to provide essential services in their communities, from providing meals to implementing distance-learning to serving as community hubs. Given these demands, Wyden, U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, D-Colo. and their colleagues requested additional funding for schools and their employees.

“From offering distance learning to converting their buildings into food distribution centers for low income families and childcare facilities for children of health care workers and emergency responders—school staff are an essential part of a multi-faceted response to the unprecedented challenges of the coronavirus,” wrote Wyden and his colleagues to Senate appropriators. “We request that you provide funds to compensate classified hourly workers, such as cafeteria staff, school bus drivers, and janitorial staff, who are serving in various capacities as front line responders to the coronavirus outbreak. We need to assist those who are expanding the ways in which they carry forward the mission and vision of our public schools.”

Across the country, many schools whose budgets were already stretched thin have stepped up to respond to the pandemic by not only adapting to the challenges of distance learning, but also by expanding outreach in their communities by providing healthy meals to students and families, updating parents and guardians as the pandemic evolves, and adopting more rigorous cleaning practices to limit the virus’ spread. Increased federal funding is essential to ensuring schools nationwide can continue this vital work.

“The health and safety of our school communities is of the greatest concern right now. The federal government must offer additional funds to comprehensively cover school staff’s response to this emergency and support their efforts to promote the long-term health of our communities. These workers are an essential part of our emergency response to COVID-19 and the virus presents a grave danger to their health. We must invest in their wellbeing to ensure they remain part of our pandemic mitigation efforts and continue to sustain the health, safety, and support of our students, families, and communities,” the senators concluded.

In addition to Wyden and Bennet, the letter was also signed by U.S. Senators Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., Cory Booker, D-N.J., Ed Markey, D-Mass., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Richard Durbin, D-Ill., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Tina Smith, D-Minn., Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., Tim Kaine, D-Va., Bob Casey, D-Pa., Jack Reed, D-R.I., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Bob Menendez, D-N.J.

The text of the letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, HHS, Education & Related Agencies is available here.