The Folly of Massive New Aid for Public Schools

President Biden’s $1.9 trillion “COVID relief” plan that Democrat leaders rammed through Congress will deliver another massive windfall to public schools. While some worthwhile items in this proposal would truly be COVID relief, another $128.5 billion exclusively for public school districts who cater to the teachers’ unions unreasonable demands is not one of them.

Consider this: Between the CARES Act that was signed into law in March 2020 and the second major COVID relief bill in December 2020, Congress has already appropriated nearly $68 billion in additional funding for K-12 schools. Should this new bill be signed into law, the total amount of additional K-12 funding will be a staggering $196 billion in less than a year.

The teachers’ unions have been pressuring Congress since the pandemic began for hundreds of billions of dollars in additional funding for public schools, while using reprehensible tactics to ensure public schools remain closed for in-person instruction. They’ve called for “safety strikes”, a national day of resistance, sent fake teacher obituary notices to Governors, lined up body bags, and paraded coffins and gravestones down city streets. They have ignored the science and orchestrated a de facto teacher’s strike for most of this school year.

Their demands are totally unreasonable. In Fairfax County Virginia, one of the largest and wealthiest public school districts in America, where the average per pupil expenditure is $15,000 per year, the local union is demanding that all teachers and students be vaccinated before teachers return to classrooms.

“The pandemic has laid bare for all to see how inflexible our nation’s K-12 system really is and how desperately families need options.”

Another frequent union demand, one that predates the pandemic, is a moratorium on new charter or voucher programs. Why?  Because private and charter school teachers don’t pay union dues, which is why the teachers’ unions fight so hard to make sure families can’t choose private schools or charter schools.

The teachers’ unions succeeded in making sure that none of the funds in the December 2020 COVID relief bill or this March 2021 bill could be used by states to create or expand educational choice for struggling families. In fact, the new bill provides no discretionary authority for Governors whatsoever to direct funds where they are needed most.  Of the total $196 billion for K-12 COVID relief, less than three percent was allocated for the non-public schools who educate 10 percent of all K-12 students – and the new bill imposes even more restrictions on the use of these funds.

The pandemic has laid bare for all to see how inflexible our nation’s K-12 system really is and how desperately families need options. Learning loss for K-12 students over the last year is virtually incalculable. It is especially devastating for children in lower income families, approximately 30 percent of whom lack the necessary computers and internet connections to successfully do remote learning, and for children with special needs who require in-person instruction. This is a tragedy, yet the teachers’ unions and their supporters in Congress have done nothing to give families alternative options or to directly empower them.

“Now it’s up to Governors and state legislatures to truly embrace local control in education by specifically dedicating state funds to empowering parents so they can ensure their children get a full-time, quality education.”

Congress should have used additional K-12 COVID relief money to directly empower families. This would have had the biggest and most immediate impact for helping children, especially lower income and special needs children, who must overcome the greatest learning loss created by shuddered schools. Instead, Congress chose to shovel another $128.5 billion into an unaccountable public education bureaucracy that continues to fail too many children.

Now it’s up to Governors and state legislatures to truly embrace local control in education by specifically dedicating state funds to empowering parents so they can ensure their children get a full-time, quality education.