Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines last month that indicated schools could reopen before all teachers receive the Covid-19 vaccine, the agency recommended that districts adhere to strong hygiene, masking, physical distancing and sanitation guidelines.
All of that takes funding — and lawmakers are attempting to provide it. The latest Covid-19 relief bill signed by President Joe Biden on Thursday allocates nearly $170 billion to K-12 schools and colleges to help fund initiatives such as installing ventilation systems, reducing class sizes, implementing social distancing processes, hiring additional staff and purchasing personal protective equipment for teachers, staff and students.
The relief package provides $128.5 billion in grants to elementary, middle and high schools and about $40 billion in grants to colleges and universities.
Lawmakers require that primary and secondary schools that receive funding reserve at least 20% of the money to address any learning gaps or trauma that may have occurred due to the pandemic and distance learning. That may include the need to hire more teachers and staff to provide additional support for students. The legislation requires colleges and universities that receive grants use at least half of the funding for emergency financial aid grants.
Wednesday's legislation is the largest-ever one-time federal investment in K-12 education, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. It's "entirely appropriate in light of school funding needs," the CBPP says.
"This relief package will provide schools the resources they need to comply with CDC guidelines, protect students and staff, and make up for lost time in the classroom," Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va. and chairman of the House Education and Labor committee, said in a statement Wednesday.
"Throughout the past year, school leaders have been calling on Congress to help address the unprecedented challenges facing students, parents, educators and communities. The American Rescue Plan is evidence that we were listening," Scott said.