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Schools need an additional $116 billion to reopen facilities safely, the AFT says

June 11, 2020
The average school will need $1.2 million to bring students back to classrooms, the American Federation of Teachers asserts.

The American Federation of Teachers says the average school will need an additional $1.2 million, or $2,300 per student, to open its doors safely in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

A report prepared by the teachers union, “Reopening Schools During a Time of Triple Crisis: Financial Implications,” argues that federal lawmakers must provide significant funding to ensure school buildings can reopen with health protections and learning layouts in place for students and educators.

The AFT says schools nationwide will need an additional $116.5 billion for instructional staff, distance learning, before- and after-school care, transportation, personal protective equipment, cleaning and health supplies, health staffing, custodial and cleaning staff, meeting children’s social and emotional needs and additional academic support for students.

Without the additional support, school buildings will stay shuttered, the AFT says.

"This is a five-alarm fire," says AFT President Randi Weingarten. "Since late April we have been exploring ways to safely reopen school buildings in the fall. Our children need it, and our families deserve it. Our educators want it, and the economy won’t recover without it. But if schools can’t get the money they need to safely reopen, then they won’t reopen, period.

States, cities and school districts are facing the largest budget cuts since the Great Recession, with state shortfalls approaching a half-trillion dollars, the teachers union asserts. If no new federal money materializes, states will be forced to make hundreds of billions in cuts to education.

“America is facing a triple crisis: a health pandemic, a racial justice crisis and an economic crisis—and they’re all interrelated," Weingarten says. "Public schools are centers of their communities and essential to repairing our nation’s fraying social fabric. And the economy won’t recover fully unless school buildings reopen.

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