Public schools already facing losses of billions in state support because of the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic need additional federal aid to reopen schools safely, the nation’s second largest teachers union said Wednesday.
The American Federation of Teachers says $116.5 billion in additional federal help is needed to pay for reopening K-12 schools safely in the fall.
“Since late April we have been exploring ways to safely reopen school buildings in the fall. Our children need it, and our families deserve it,” AFT President Randi Weingarten said in a written statement. “Our educators want it, and the economy won’t recover without it. But if schools can’t get the money they need to safely reopen, then they won’t reopen, period.”
To comply with social distancing guidelines, schools will have to significantly reduce in-person class sizes, the AFT said in an analysis it released ahead of a hearing Wednesday by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on the impact of the virus on K-12 schools.
The additional staffing needed to reduce the number of students in classrooms will cost $35 billion, the analysis found.
Meanwhile, limiting the number of students on school buses will require $9.6 billion in added transportation spending, the AFT said.
New personal protective equipment for students and school staff will cost $8.3 billion. And keeping schools clean will require hiring 140,000 janitorial staffers costing $6.6 billion, the analysis found.