Members of the Biden administration have repeatedly stressed that money for infrastructure — not vaccination — is the crucial factor in reopening American schools for in-person learning. But according to a new report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), tying in-person learning to infrastructure and safety spending could leave kids out of classrooms until 2023, as only a fraction of existing coronavirus relief funds for schools is slated to be spent in 2021.
“President Biden’s relief bill currently includes $130 billion for public K-12 schools. The biggest chunk of the spending would go to districts to avoid layoffs and hire more personnel,” National Public Radio reported earlier in February, alluding to the administration’s plans to spend its way into a five-day, in-person school week.
Just Wednesday morning, Vice President Kamala Harris, acknowledging that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not believe vaccinating teachers against COVID-19 must be a prerequisite to returning to classrooms, reiterated the administration’s call for increased funding for school infrastructure improvements is needed before students are allowed to return to school full time, pushing the idea of a fourth, trillion-dollar coronavirus relief package.
Dr. Anthony Fauci stressed the need for increased funding to schools over the weekend. “I think that the schools really do need more resources,” he told ABC News. “This Week.” “And that’s the reason why the national relief act that we’re talking about getting passed, we need that. The schools need more resources.”
But according to the CBO, billions of taxpayer dollars have already been allocated to improving schools and making them ready to house full-time students in the midst of a pandemic and just a fraction of that money has been spent so far. Biden’s new plan, the CBO says, would keep some schools closed until 2022 or 2023.
In fact, 95% of the money allocated for education in the COVID relief bills won’t be spent until after this school year is over.
“President Biden’s COVID-19 relief package would put $128 billion toward helping K-12 public schools deal with the coronavirus pandemic, but the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that just $6 billion would flow to schools in 2021,” Fox News reported. “The CBO estimates that the number would increase to $32 billion in 2022 and 2023, respectively. The rest of the money would be paid out through 2028, according to a cost estimate released Monday.”
The same applies to earlier COVID relief bills.
“Congress previously approved $31 billion for education relief in the March CARES Act and an additional $82 billion for education relief in the December Consolidated Appropriations Act,” Fox added. “Because most of those funds remain to be spent, CBO anticipates that the bulk of spending of funds provided in the reconciliation recommendations would occur after 2021.”
A Biden administration official told Fox News that they “will not allocate funding based on CBO projections and said the president is committed to providing schools with the resources they need to safely reopen and fully serve their students, including more funding to cover COVID-19-related costs, budget shortfalls and financial certainty,” but did not address whether Biden will alter his proposed coronavirus relief bill to meet current needs, or why it spread out funding over several years.
The House Democrats’ draft relief measure allocates some funds to improving school safety and addressing pandemic preparedness, but it also provides for additional resources so that schools can hire back teachers who might be laid off because of COVID-related budget constraints.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) told The Daily Wire that any proposed coronavirus relief bill should reflect a plan designed to get students back into classrooms as soon as possible and not delay funds.
“Millions of parents and students have gone through a tumultuous year navigating the stressors and isolation of virtual learning,” McCarthy told The Daily Wire in a statement. “Any COVID relief negotiated in Congress should be designed to get people back to work and kids back in school, but as the CBO report shows, Democrats’ disastrous bill spends billions of dollars on schools several years from now. Telling their children that it might be another year or two before their return to in-person instruction is unacceptable.”
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