San Diego Unified School District representatives joined members of San Diego's Congressional delegation on Thursday to urge the U.S. Senate to approve the Democratic-backed HEROES Act, a $3 trillion stimulus bill that could provide funding for local schools.
According to SDUSD, the coronavirus pandemic, which put a halt to gatherings outside a single household in April, has forced the district to burden unforeseen costs in order to switch students to distance learning. In order to maintain district standards, additional funding is needed, Superintendent Cindy Marten said.
"School districts need to purchase personal protective equipment for children and for adults, and we need to increase the cleaning and daily health checks, and we have to modify our school buildings including our classrooms, our gymnasiums, our auditoriums, our cafeterias and our school buses," Marten said surrounded by local representatives.
The group -- which included Reps. Susan Davis, Scott Peters, Juan Vargas, SDUSD Board VP Richard Barrera, student board member Zachary Patterson and others -- called on the Senate to include billions in funding for schools. The funding, they said, is necessary to avoid teacher layoffs and massive budget cuts to education as changes are made in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
Rep. Juan Vargas said the only way to safely open schools is with funding from the federal government.
"We need the money and if we have the money, then we’re going to be able to open up the school safely because we have to do a lot of cleaning, sterilizing, all the things to make sure these kids are safe," Vargas said. "But you can’t do it without money and the state doesn’t have it, the schools certainly don’t have it. Only the federal government can do it, the federal government has to do it."
The House passed the HEROES Act in mid-May but it must still be approved by the Republican-led Senate, where it faces strong opposition. The bill would deliver $1 trillion for state and local governments and provide another round of $1,200 stimulus checks to individuals, along with other measures to help those struggling during the pandemic.
The bill allocated $58 billion for K-12 education. A different version that has now stalled in the Senate would send $70 billion to public schools.
Rep. Susan Davis on Thursday called for $300 billion to be allocated to education.
With the Senate and the House deadlocked on a stimulus plan though, it appears any vote on a relief bill would still be weeks away, when congressional members return to Washington, D.C.