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'Now, Before It Is Too Late': Parents and Teachers Nationwide Call on Congress to Urgently Provide $250 Billion to Save Generation of Students

"In a world turned upside down by a global pandemic, these backbone institutions need ample financial resources and support to continue serving this generation, the next generation, and their families in ways that keep everyone safe."

Second grade teacher Alice Rey sanitizers students' desks for snack time at South Boston Catholic Academy in South Boston on Sept. 10, 2020.

Second grade teacher Alice Rey sanitizers students' desks for snack time at South Boston Catholic Academy in South Boston on Sept. 10, 2020. (Photo: David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Over 100 groups representing nearly 10 million families and educators on Wednesday demanded Congress pass $250 billion in stabilization funding "before it is too late" so that child care providers and K-12 programs can provide their critical services safely amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The united call comes in an open letter (pdf) from national groups including Oxfam America and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and state level organizations such as Advocates for Children of New York outlining the dizzying array of challenges and threats the deadly virus has thrown at these "backbone institutions" —which have been "underfunded and undervalued" for years—with lawmakers' continued inaction standing to deepen already entrenched inequalities.

The demand comes as schools reopen nationwide, some for in-person learning, and follows warnings from educators and teacher unions that state and federal policymakers have failed to provide the necessary tools and funding to make sure reopenings will include protections from Covid-19 transmission.

Among the struggles singled out by the groups in the new letter were the expectation that teachers deliver classes in person without being given sufficient PPE; child care centers that have been forced to closed in the face of added expenses and revenue shortfalls; and overwhelmed parents working from home while arranging for their children's virtual learning. The letter laments that too many parents, educators, and child care providers on the frontlines are "expected to bear the full burden to ensure our own safe existence."

The signers of the letter say they will refuse to "fall prey to blaming one another for individual choices made within the context of systems that have failed us all" and intend to "stand together to collectively demand that policymakers do what needs to be done."

"Congress must immediately pass at least $50 billion to stabilize child care and $200 billion for K-12 education," the letter states, urging lawmakers to seize their clear "ability to make this time substantially more safe and less burdensome."

The letter further notes that while "other industries, like airlines, have received a large influx of funds to help them stay afloat, no such rescue package has been available for child care and public education, both of which should be essential public goods."

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While welcoming provisions in the House-passed HEROES Act including an initial investment of $90 billion for K-12 and higher education as welcome steps, "when parents, child care providers, and teachers needed it most," the groups say "Congress did not follow through to ensure our safety and success."

That failure suggests devastating consequences to come. From the letter:

Children who have already been made vulnerable stand to be most affected by Congress' failure to invest in the parents, institutions. and individuals that care for them and shape their learning .In addition, as women bear the brunt of added caregiving responsibilities at home, we are witnessing decreased female labor force participation, with dire consequences that could last for decades. Finally, because the majority of teachers and child care providers are women, with women of color making up a disproportionate share of the child care workforce, they bear the brunt of the lack of significant federal funding that is putting significant stress on all of our education systems, and pushing the child care sector to its breaking point.

The group brush off "symbolic gestures that don't equate to real relief for children, families, child care providers, teachers, and school staff," demanding instead "bicameral, bipartisan agreement and passage of significant relief funding for the child care and K-12 sectors now, before it is too late."

"In a world turned upside down by a global pandemic, these backbone institutions need ample financial resources and support to continue serving this generation, the next generation, and their families in ways that keep everyone safe," the letter continues. "Our children, our students, our families, our educators, our businesses, and our economy won't safely recover without it."

Rhian Evans Allvin, CEO of NAEYC, says the need for congressional action on the matter is clear.

"This broad coalition of groups representing all parts of the American systems providing care and education shows that as the crisis has persisted, the danger to our system is real and getting worse," she said in a statement Wednesday.  "But Congress can act to support children, families, and our economy by providing substantial emergency funding needed to prevent 82 percent of child care programs from closing in the next year (pdf), and to support schools in staying open safely."

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