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Legislative Update

Senate Republicans Release Draft Coronavirus Relief Bill

By Jodi Peterson

Posted on 2020-08-03

Senate Republicans have released a draft of their coronavirus relief bill that includes $70 billion to K-12 public and private schools and $5 billion in funds for governors for K-12 and higher education. Two-thirds of K-12 funding in the Senate Republican bill would be reserved for schools that plan to physically reopen for in-person instruction.

The bill (the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection, and Schools (HEALS) Act) includes key priorities of Senate Republicans—and the Administration--which has pushed schools to resume in-person instruction.  The Senate bill has no additional budget aid provided to state and local governments, but schools would get protections from legal liability to discourage lawsuits relating to COVID-19.

According to Education Week:

  • For districts' reopening plans submitted to governors, districts would have to provide a timeline for when they plan to provide in-person classes, how many days of in-person classes they plan to provide each week, and  a promise to provide as much face-to-face instruction "as is safe and practicable."
  • A district that submits a plan that allows at least 50 percent of its students to be on campus at least 50 percent of the time would automatically qualify for the funding.
  • A plan that calls for in-person learning for fewer students would have its funding allotment "reduced on a pro rata basis as determined by the Governor."
  • Schools that don't plan any in-person instruction would not be eligible to get money from the pot of money for physical reopening. 
  • Schools that do receive HEALS money to help them physically reopen could spend it on personal protective equipment, sanitizing and cleaning resources, education technology, and to help districts prepare for and respond to the virus, in coordination with local health departments, among other things. 

As expected, many education groups including NSTA have rallied in support against the Senate proposal.

As you will recall in mid-May, House of Representatives Democrats unveiled a $3 trillion COVID-19 stimulus bill, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act or “HEROES Act,” H.R. 6800 (116). Senate Democrats introduced the Coronavirus Child Care and Education Relief Act (CCCERA), which would provide $175 billion for K-12 schools, $132 billion for higher education, and $33 billion for a Governor’s Fund. Negotiations are currently underway to come up with a compromise bill.

Key provisions of the Senate bill for K-12 are below.

  • Makes available an additional $105 billion for education through the Educational Stabilization Fund (through September 30, 2021)
    • $500 million to outlying areas
    • $500 million for BIA
    • $5.2 billion for Governors
    • $69.7 billion for K-12
    • $29.1 billion for Higher Education 

(all numbers are approximate)

  • Governor’s Fund
    • States must file applications for funds
    • Secretary will award Governors funds within 30 days of approved applications
    • Each state will receive funds based on following formula: 60% based on relative populations of individuals aged 5 to 24; and 40-% based on relative number of Title I students
    • Funds may be used largely as Governors see fit including possibly for private schools and non-profits
  • K-12
    • Secretary will make formula grants, based on Title I, to States within 15 days of approved application
    • Funding from states to districts will be provided based on the following:
      • One-third ($20.9 billion) will be awarded to all districts within 15 days after the state has received an award from the Secretary.
      • Two-thirds ($42 billion) will be awarded (within 30 days) only after the school district submits and the Governor approves a comprehensive reopening plan that is based on –
        • Criteria determined by the Governor, and
        • Federal criteria that:
          • The school district “provides in-person instruction for at least 50 percent of its students where the students physically attend school no less than 50 percent of each school-week, as it was defined by the local educational agency prior to the coronavirus emergency”
          • Districts that do not provide in-person instruction as per above will receive no part of this part of the funding.
          • Districts where “at least some students where the students physically attend school in-person but does not satisfy the requirements in subparagraph (A) shall have its allocation reduced on a pro rata basis as determined by the Governor.”
        • From both pots, states shall reserve funds for accredited private schools based on the number of low-income students enrolled as a share of all low-income students enrolled in the State. The same in-person rules shall apply.
      • Use of Funds
        • Does not include all uses from existing federal education programs as CARES did originally.
        • PPE, preparedness/response; resources for principals and school leaders; additional services for challenged student subgroups; professional development on sanitizing; education technology purchases; healthcare and mental health services; and summer learning.
        • Explicit protections for charter schools included.
        • States can reserve up to 5% of funds for Administration.

Stay tuned, and watch for more updates in future issues of NSTA Express.

Jodi Peterson is the Assistant Executive Director of Communications, Legislative & Public Affairs for the National Science Teaching Association (NSTA) and Chair of the STEM Education Coalition. Reach her via e-mail at or via Twitter at @stemedadvocate.

The mission of NSTA is to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all.

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