WASHINGTON, DC (NEXSTAR) — Governors across the country want to get students safely back in the classroom as soon as possible.
“There is no doubt that we must open the schools,” said Gov. Henry McMaster, R-SC.
“Anyone who thinks this is a normal school year is not paying attention,” said Gov. Phil Murphy, D-NJ. “We’ve got to evolve, and we’ve got to listen to folks.”
Rep. French Hill, R-AR, argues his bill is the product of that.
“I was hearing mostly superintendents saying they were pretty well prepared,” Hill said. “But in case they weren’t or some districts were better off than others, I proposed the HELP Act.”
Hill’s legislation would create a $25 billion grant program with money Congress has already approved to help K-12 schools reopen.
President Trump supports giving the bulk of federal funding to schools that prioritize in-person learning.
“I think the money should follow the student,” the president said during a White House event this week with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
However, Hill said his legislation doesn’t come with conditions. It allows the money to pay for resources like protective equipment in the classroom or wireless hotspots outside it.
“As the virus, the public health crisis drags on affecting more families longer, these programs have to demonstrate that same flexibility,” he said.
Hill used an example from his home state, where Gov. Asa Hutchinson proposed using federal funds to provide paid leave for teachers.
“I really believe that that flexibility with the state money is all the governors and superintendents need,” Hill said.
Critics argue the bill should have come sooner and can’t help anyone until after it passes, but the House and Senate are both gone until next month, unless the leadership and White House can reach a compromise on the next coronavirus relief package.