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Trahan Secures House Vote to Protect Funding for Public Schools, Ensure Safe Return to School

Congresswoman Lori Trahan (MA-03)

WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Lori Trahan (MA-03), a member of the House Education and Labor Committee, announced that the House of Representatives will be voting on proposals she offered as amendments to a major funding package under consideration in the House this week. Set to be adopted just weeks before school is scheduled to resume, Trahan’s proposals will prevent the diversion of coronavirus relief funding designated for public schools and ensure that schools aren’t forced to reopen before it is safe for students and teachers to return to the classroom. 

“While President Trump continues to politicize this public health crisis for his own political gain, Secretary DeVos has diligently worked behind the scenes of this crisis to further her mission of getting federal education funding rerouted to private schools,” Congresswoman Trahan said. “Both actions are shameful, dangerous, and dereliction of their responsibility to the students and teachers they serve. My amendments will address these actions by the Administration, and I look forward to seeing them passed with bipartisan support in the House.” 

Tomorrow and Friday, the House will consider H.R. 7617, the Defense, Commerce, Justice, Science, Energy and Water Development, Financial Services and General Government, Homeland Security, Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development Appropriations Act, 2021. Background on Trahan’s amendments can be found below: 

Preserving Public School Relief:
In late March, Congress passed and the President signed into law the CARES Act, which included $13.5 billion in COVID-19 relief for public elementary and secondary schools. Under this legislation and other federal education laws, public school districts are required to use federal funds to provide equitable services to disadvantaged students attending private schools in their district. 

Despite clear statutory restrictions on the use of the relief funds, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, a longtime proponent of diverting funds intended for public K-12 schools to private institutions, issued new guidance on April 30th requiring that an increased percentage of CARES Act funding be used to support the total number of private school students in the district, regardless of their wealth or where they live. 

Trahan’s proposal sends a clear message to Secretary DeVos that the intent of emergency aid provided under the CARES Act is intended exclusively for public elementary and secondary schools and the disadvantaged students who are already eligible for aid. 

Ensuring Student and Teacher Safety:
Earlier this month, President Trump threatened to withhold federal funding from schools that do not resume normal operations regardless of health concerns about the spread of COVID-19. The President’s threat, which has since been supported by Secretary DeVos and Republicans in both chambers, contradicted guidance issued by his own health experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

When the House Education and Labor Committee invited CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield to testify about the immediate needs of K-12 public schools examining how to reopen, the White House blocked his testimony. 

Trahan’s second amendment makes clear to the President and Secretary DeVos that federal education funding should not be used to coerce schools into resuming in-person instruction as they consider options to safely begin the school year. 

The House will begin full consideration of H.R. 7616, including Trahan’s amendments, tomorrow with final passage of the legislation scheduled for Friday.

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