Congress’s Ideological Divide Has Stymied Aid for Pandemic-Stricken Schools

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Congress’s Ideological Divide Has Stymied Aid for Pandemic-Stricken Schools

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“This needs to be looked at as an emergency response in a crisis situation,” Mr. Diament said. “This is more akin to Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy than the typical discussions we have about federal support for education.”

Leading Democrats have said they want to take care of public schools first.

In negotiations with Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Ms. Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, have increased the amount of aid they believe needs to go to public schools.

Initially Ms. Pelosi included $100 billion for schools in the House bill; now Democratic leaders want four times that amount — $430 billion for public education, including $175 billion for K-12 schools and $50 billion for child care.

“When we had $100 billion in our plan, we knew it wasn’t enough, but we had to get a bill passed,” Ms. Pelosi told Ms. Weingarten during a virtual interview at a teachers’ union convention. “Your friend Chuck Schumer has it up to $400 billion, thanks to you.”

Republicans, in contrast, are not united. During talks on the party’s Senate proposal, administration officials pushed to allocate funding only to schools that had opened in person, but the senators resisted taking the decision on reopening away from state and local governments and school districts. Republicans settled on proposing that of the $70 billion earmarked for primary and secondary schools, two-thirds of that money would go to schools that had some form of in-person classes.

“If what you’re asking is, ‘Should we threaten to cut off funds to districts that don’t open?’ I’m not supportive of it,” said Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida.

Senator Mike Rounds, Republican of South Dakota, is more supportive. Some schools in his state are opening with separation barriers to keep students in small groups of about a dozen, and Mr. Rounds said it made sense to provide more money for schools that have the costs of running in-person classes.

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