03.13.20

CORONAVIRUS: Murray Introduces Bill to Support Students, Teachers, School Staff Amid School Closures

Supporting Students in Response to Coronavirus Act will provide resources to assist early childhood programs, K-12 schools, and institutions of higher education  

 

The bill follows Senator Murray’s ongoing efforts to push the Department of Education to provide guidance to schools in the wake of widespread school closures

 

Senator Murray: “I’ve introduced a bill to ensure that our coronavirus response provides the resources our students, teachers, school staff, and schools so desperately need.”

 

(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, along with Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), introduced the Supporting Students in Response to Coronavirus Act to support students, teachers, and other school staff as the spread of coronavirus continues to cause school closures across the country.

 

The legislation will help alleviate disruptions caused by coronavirus by helping to keep K-12 schools, early childhood programs, and institutions of higher education operational or re-open sooner, provide emergency financial aid for college students in need of food or housing assistance, and provide resources to address traumatic stress caused by this outbreak. Additionally, the legislation will provide new flexibility for students in higher education to ensure they aren’t penalized by school closures and for foreign institutions of higher education serving American students to ensure students’ educations are not disrupted by the outbreaks in other countries.

 

“As the coronavirus continues to spread—and schools continue to close—many students, teachers and staff are frightened and searching for answers,” said Senator Murray. “Across the country, schools are preparing for temporary closures, students are wondering how they’ll receive vital services, educational facilities need to be cleaned, college students need help finding food and housing, and early education programs need help remaining open and staffed. That’s why I’ve introduced a bill to ensure that our coronavirus response provides the resources our students, teachers, other staff, and schools so desperately need.”

 

As COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the country and around the world, many schools have already closed and more are likely to follow suit. Likewise, many institutions of higher education have suspended classes, converted to online formats, or closed on-campus food and housing facilities.

 

These changes not only disrupt students’ educational pathways, but also their daily lives. School closures can be particularly difficult for students who are food or housing insecure, students who cannot access online learning because they do not have a computer or reliable internet access, families in need of child care, and students with disabilities. School closures also leave many families scrambling for alternative child care options, increasing the demand for child care in communities most impacted by COVID-19.

 

Senator Murray’s Supporting Students in Response to Coronavirus Act would respond to these challenges by:

 

  • Providing resources to help schools plan for closures, including planning for how to provide meals, how to provide technology to all students, and how to ensure other educational services for students can continue.
  • Supporting efforts to clean and sanitize educational facilities, including providing training to educators and staff on how to ensure buildings are safe for students’ return and to coordinate response efforts with public health departments.
  • Ensuring early childhood programs stay operational, including helping with emergency staffing needs.
  • Providing emergency financial aid for college students in need of food, housing, and child care, following abrupt school closures.
  • Providing students with relief from paying back Pell Grants or repaying student loans for disrupted terms.
  • Allowing American students enrolled in foreign colleges abroad to continue their studies without disruption.
  • Increasing funding for the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, addressing stress and mental health needs associated with the spread of the virus.

 

This bill is one of many steps that Senator Murray has taken to support students, teachers and staff amid the continuing coronavirus crisis. She has twice led Senator Democrats pushing for answers from the Department of Education on how they plan to protect students, teachers, and staff during the crisis. In her most recent letter, sent just yesterday, Senator Murray urged Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to provide clarity and guidance for school districts and institutions of higher education, as well as families and students, following widespread school closures across the country due to the spread of the coronavirus.

 

The fact sheet for the bill can be found HERE.

The text of the bill can be found HERE.

 

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