Last week the Republican-controlled state House passed a COVID response plan which is opposed by MEA because it holds much-needed federal COVID relief hostage in a political fight and, among other provisions, adds a voucher-style payment to parents to pay for summer programs outside of schools.
An MEA analysis reveals that House Bill 4048, which passed in a party-line vote, would fund only a portion of summer school needs and incentivizes school districts to open buildings for full-time in-person instruction by Feb. 15 without requiring safety protocols recommended by health experts.
“According to our analysis, the structure and funding for summer programming is insufficient and will only cover a quarter of the students in the state,” said MEA lobbyist Andy Neumann. “In addition, the in-person instruction incentive fails to recognize any of the public health or CDC guidelines.”
The bill authorizes $86.8 million for a grant program that would be available to nonpublic schools and provides nearly $6 million for payments to parents whose children attend summer programs not covered in the legislation.
“MEA believes money should go directly to school districts for remediation services as opposed to this voucher-style approach,” Neumann said.
HB 4048 is tie-barred to House Bill 4049, which also passed along party lines last week. That bill would remove the authority of the director of the Department of Health and Human Services to close a public or nonpublic school to in-person instruction or prohibit a sporting event during an epidemic.
“This bill takes essential public health authority away from the administration and their efforts to control the spread of COVID-19,” Neumann said.
This withholding of Congressionally-approved school funding has been the subject of an MEA call to action. MEA members are writing their state lawmakers in opposition to Republican leaders holding up $1.8 billion in COVID funding for schools in a power struggle with the governor.
These bills now move to the Senate, so speak up today!