GOP unveils stimulus with two-thirds of school funding tied to reopening

By Bianca Quilantan and Michael Stratford
WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans rolled out their latest coronavirus aid plan Monday night, including $105 billion in education funding and the mandate that most of the money for K-12 schools go to those that reopen for some in-person learning.
Leaders on Capitol Hill and in the Trump administration still need to negotiate a compromise that can pass both chambers and earn President Donald Trump's signature — a deal top lawmakers have warned could take weeks to strike.
Democrats have said tying the emergency funds to schools reopening their classrooms for in-person instruction is a non-starter for negotiations.
The Senate GOP plan includes several bills, with a funding measure called the HEALS Act as its centerpiece.
Key education provisions in the Senate package:
Money for K-12 schools and colleges: The bill would provide $105 billion in new federal spending on education, including $70 billion for K-12 schools, $29 billion for colleges, $1 billion for the Bureau of Indian Education and outlying areas, as well as $5 billion for governors to spend on education. That money would remain available through Sept. 30, 2021.
Of the funding the bill would send to K-12 schools, one-third would flow to all school districts and private schools, within 15 days of the bill's enactment, if the schools have applied for the funds.
The remaining two-thirds would be available only to help schools with additional costs of reopening for in-person instruction. That funding would be awarded based on minimum opening requirements established by states. School districts would need to send their governors a comprehensive reopening plan for the 2020–2021 school year.
To receive the money, reopening plans would have to include in-person instruction for at least 50 percent of students. Those students would also have to physically attend school no less than 50 percent of each school week. School reopening plans would have to include a detailed timeline for providing in-person learning, as well as an "assurance" to "offer students as much in-person instruction as is safe and practicable."
For schools that have some in-person instruction but do not meet the requirement, a reduced allocation could be provided, as determined by each governor.
The money could be used for purchasing personal protective equipment or box lunches, implementing flexible schedules, creating physical barriers, providing extra transportation services, configuring classrooms and improving ventilation systems. The funding could also be used for creating a response plan, services for students, cleaning supplies, technology and health services.
Nonpublic schools would be given an equal amount of funding based on their number of low-income students enrolled and would be subject to similar funding restrictions tied to classroom reopening requirements.
Colleges and universities: Higher education grants would be doled out largely based on full time enrollment of Pell grant recipients and could be used for coronavirus-related expenses, as well as financial aid for students.
Institutions could use the money for lost revenue, reimbursement for expenses already incurred, technology costs associated with online learning and payroll, as well as faculty and staff training. The money could also be used to provide financial aid grants to students, including those exclusively studying online.
Colleges and universities that paid the endowment tax in 2019 would receive less money and would only be allowed to use the funding for student aid.
The fund also includes $2.9 billion in dedicated funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities, as well as Minority Serving Institutions.