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Teachers union calls for federal funds to safely open schools, targets Marco Rubio

The Senate began a scheduled two-week break on July 3.

An ad campaign from the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) is pressing U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and his Senate colleagues to approve additional COVID-19 relief funding to help schools safely reopen in the fall.

The Senate began a two-week break on July 3.

“It’s a dereliction of duty for [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell to go on vacation in July without passing the federal investment our schools desperately need to safely reopen this fall,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten.

“McConnell saying, while on recess, that he believes the Senate will act on something is not actually doing what kids and educators need. Donald Trump and [U.S. Secretary of Education] Betsy DeVos demanding schools reopen but failing to produce a plan or the resources required is not doing what kids and educators need. Actions speak louder than words.”

Now, the union is out with an ad running in 10 states and Washington, D.C., targeting the Republican-run Senate for failing to approve a new coronavirus relief package.

“Coronavirus isn’t taking personal time, unemployment isn’t taking a leave of absence, and teachers and parents aren’t taking a break from preparing for the school year,” the ad’s narrator begins.”

“So why are Senate Republicans taking a vacation instead of passing funding to safely reopen schools and kick start our economy? We can’t afford for our children’s education to be another victim of the coronavirus. Tell your Senator to come back to Washington and support emergency education funding.”

The version of the ad running in Florida then displays contact information for Sen. Rubio.

The campaign comes as Trump is pushing schools to open nationwide, even threatening federal funding for schools that decide against reopening due to concerns about the virus. Education is largely funded at the local and state level, however.

Florida has followed Trump’s suggestion. Earlier this week, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran ordered schools to reopen beginning next month. Gov. Ron DeSantis has argued schools are an “essential service” and noted younger individuals are at less risk for feeling the worst effects of the virus. He also came under fire this week for comparing returning to school to shopping at Home Depot or Walmart, places people aren’t likely to spend an extended period of time for five days a week.

DeSantis has said parents who don’t feel comfortable sending their children to a school campus would have a remote learning option available. Still, older teachers and staff can still feel those impacts.

While the President is pushing for other states to follow suit, some critics of the plan have urged the federal government to provide additional funding to help those schools reopen safely. Money could be used to help set up social distancing measures, provide for sanitization options, and more.

The AFT ads will run for two weeks on CNN, MSNBC, Fox and YouTube. In addition to Florida, the organization is also running similar ads in Arizona, Colorado, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Washington, DC.

AFT is pushing the federal government for more than $116 billion the organization argues is necessary to install relevant safety measures. The HEROES Act, which has been approved by the House but not yet the Senate, contains around $90 billion in school funding.

“Educators and parents are working overtime to figure out a plan for our students, because we all want kids to be able to go back to school in the fall — in some cases, school should start in early August,” Weingarten added.

“But even those who care more about the GDP than they care about kids’ well-being must face reality: Parents are telling their employers they can’t reopen the economy further without reopening schools, and we can’t reopen schools without the resources and plans to keep students and staff safe from the virus.”

Written By

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to ryan.t.nicol@gmail.com.

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