Schumer: Schools Can’t Reopen Without Federal Aid

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BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG) — During a stop Thursday in Owego, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer reasserted the need for emergency school funding.

U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) spoke in Owego in support of school funding. (Jillian Forstadt/WSKG)

Speaking alongside Maine-Endwell Superintendent Jason Van Fossen and Owego Apalachin Central School District Superintendent Corey Green, Schumer said schools in the Southern Tier need additional funds before they can reopen safely. According to guidance from the New York State Education Department, districts must purchase masks and other personal protective equipment, as well as daily replacements, for students, teachers and staff.

School district leaders across the country have said such expenses are piling up quickly. Schumer called on Congress to step up before the burden falls on teachers and their communities.

“Teachers are always paying for things out of the goodness of their hearts, and they’re not paid that much, but this one is so expensive we’ve got to get federal help,” Schumer said.

Schumer said he hopes to secure $345 billion in federal education funding as part of the proposed Coronavirus Child Care and Education Relief Act (CCCERA). It includes $175 billion for K-12 schools, $132 billion for higher education and $33 billion that governors can allocate to hard hit educational services.

Earlier this year, Governor Andrew Cuomo warned schools may lose close to 20 percent of their state aid this fall. Van Fossen said a cut that large would mean losing $5 million dollars for his district. He said the district is spending an additional $500,000 to purchase materials and make necessary changes for the upcoming school year, including additional staffing and transportation costs.

“The impact on students is really unknown at this point because it is so significant,” Van Fossen said. “A 20 percent reduction would decimate our programs and it would look far different than what it looked like on March 11 of this year.”

Schumer also stressed the need to fund state and local governments in a fourth coronavirus relief package.