Michigan U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow has introduced legislation to help school districts and colleges to more safely reopen this fall.
If passed into law, the Reopen Schools Safely Act would establish a federal grant program at the U.S. Department of Education.
“I welcome support for students coming from Washington D.C. or Lansing,” said Boyne City Public Schools Superintendent Pat Little. “I would encourage flexible rules with spending.”
According to the School Superintendents Association, an average school district needs up to $1.8 million to reopen safely.
“No two districts will have the same exact needs. So, an overly prescriptive funding model will just create more bureaucratic decisions versus the accurate and reality-based decisions that local leaders will be ready to make for students,” Little said.
According to Stabenow, school districts and colleges will have flexibility to use the funds for any expense needed to meet Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state, and local guidelines for mitigating the spread of COVID-19.
These expenses include personal protective equipment, sanitation supplies, temperature-screening equipment, certified COVID-19 tests, and more.
“Also, these funding bills need to move quickly,” Little said. “Our planning is complex—from transportation to food service to instruction.”
He added, “We have to know what our resources will be so plans can be developed and thoroughly reviewed.”
Stabenow said governors who apply for the funding will have the flexibility to determine the distribution of funds to local school districts, colleges, and universities based on the needs of their state.
“Six studies in six years have come to the same conclusion: we underfund public school children and schools in Michigan,” said Michigan State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice. “Since 1995, inflation-adjusted resources for Michigan public school children and schools have declined significantly and now, with the pandemic, the needs of public schools have increased substantially as we face the greatest cut in post-Proposal A history.”
Stabenow hopes the bipartisan nature of this legislation will help it succeed.
“As we look to the Fall, every parent, teacher and administrator I know is anguishing over how we safely return our children to school,” she said. “The reality is, we can’t fully reopen our economy and parents can’t return to work, if our schools can’t safely open. And because of the incredible strain from the COVID crisis, states need federal help.”
Stabenow added, “This legislation has brought Republicans and Democrats together to put the safety of our children first and to make sure our schools and colleges have the resources they need to meet this unprecedented challenge.”