Education Funding and Next COVID-19 Relief Bill: The HEROES Act

AACTE Responds to COVID-19

This blog post is written by AACTE consultant Jane West and is intended to provide updated information. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of AACTE.

Speaker Pelosi Unveils Next COVID-19 Relief Bill with a $3 Trillion Price Tag

The House of Representatives is in town and scheduled to vote late today on the next COVID-19 relief bill—dubbed the HEROES Act. Considered by many to be a messaging bill and the wish list of Speaker Pelosi (D-CA), it is not expected to receive Republican support.  Even so, a number of progressive Democrats believe it does not have enough relief and may vote no.  Likewise, there may well be a few Republicans who cross over to support it. 

The 1815 page bill includes almost $1 trillion to support state and local governments and another $100 billion for education. Key features include the following:

  • $90 billion for education distributed to Governors through the Education Stabilization Fund:
    • $58 billion for K-12 local education agencies
    • $37 billion for higher education; of that, $27 billion for public institutions of higher education and an additional $10 billion including $1.7 billion for HBCUs and MSIs
    • $4 billion for governors to support K-12, higher education, and related activities
    • $450 million each for the Bureau of Indian Education and outlining areas
    • In addition, $1.5 billion is included to expand internet connectivity
    • In addition, maintenance of effort provisions are required for state funding and restrictions on student eligibility (such as DACA students) are prohibited
  • An additional $10 billion is set aside from the state and local funds for institutions of higher education that includes $7 billion for private non-profits

Educators across the board praised the bill and lauded its continued investment in education.  These numbers are likely the high-water mark for education spending in the next COVID-19 relief package; however, they do fall short of requests made by K-12 educators who were looking for $250 billion. 

When the bill clears the House, it will go to the Senate for consideration. Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is in no hurry to take it up. He has argued that the CARES Act funding is not yet fully distributed and its impact is not yet known—so it is premature to move to the next bill. He has also indicated that liability provisions preventing legal action against businesses related to the pandemic will be a priority in any forthcoming bill. 

On a promising note, 28 Senators issued a bipartisan letter requesting additional funding for education in the next COVID-19 relief bill. The letter was led by Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

Concerns about CARES Act Implementation Continue

Two key areas of concern have developed as Sec. DeVos has been implementing the CARES Act. For the K-12 distribution, she set aside funding to create a “microgrant” voucher-like competition for school districts to provide funding to parents to purchase services. In the higher education realm, she has limited the students eligible for financial relief so that international students and DACA students will not receive funds. These developments did not go unnoticed by House Democrats, who included retroactive prohibitions against both moves in the HEROES Act, which is under consideration in the House today. 

VP Biden Announces Education Task Force

As the presidential campaign continues in a dull roar in the background of the pandemic, presumptive democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden announced several task forces designed to unify Biden supporters and former Sanders supporters. The task forces will make recommendations to the committee, which will develop the Democratic National Committee’s 2020 platform. A key issue to watch in the development of the platform will be charter schools, as many on the task force are skeptical (to put it mildly). In 2000, the Democratic platform called for tripling the number of charter schools. Members of the Task Force include the following:

  • Marcia Fudge (D-OH) (co-chair of Task Force)
  • Heather Gautney, Fordham University sociology professor; former education adviser to Sen. Sanders (co-chair of Task Force)
  • Bobby Scott (D-VA), Chair, House Committee on Education and Labor
  • Randi Weingarten, President, AFT
  • Lilly Eskelsen Garcia, President, NEA
  • Former Attorney General Eric Holder
  • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)
  • President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Vanita Gupta
  • Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA)
  • Alejandro Adler, Columbia University
  • Maggie Thompson, formerly with Generation Progress
  • Christina Vilsack, former first lady of Iowa
  • Hirokazu Yoshikawa, New York University

Read the full Washington update on my website for more information.

Stay safe. Be well. Count your blessings. See you on twitter @janewestdc.

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Jane E. West

AACTE Education Policy Consultant