We Rise Together - NEA Week of Action

US Senators and Representatives from Illinois

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all our lives in so many ways. All our lives will change in ways we don’t even know yet. But we cannot and will not just sit and wring our hands. We must plan, prepare, and mobilize to advocate for what we know students and educators need. IEA members are coming together with families, community leaders and other activists to demand that Congress act to ensure that students and communities Rise Together by:

Stabilizing education funding for students in our communities, schools, and campuses ($175B)

  • State and local budgets are expected to see the deepest cuts in history as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, placing students, educators, and public schools at great risk. We must make sure Congress invests in the cornerstone our democracy—public education.
  • We’re calling on Congress to provide at least $175 billion to distribute to states and local districts, allocated by formula based on poverty, to fill COVID-19 budget gaps that will hurt students in schools and on campuses.

Building bridges for educational opportunities for students and stronger communities ($4 B)

  • COVID-19 has brought the stark reality of the digital divide front and center. More than 10 million K-12 students, living in poverty and in rural areas, are at risk of falling behind their peers because they don’t have internet access at home and are denied the opportunities to learn that are afforded their peers.
  • We demand that Congress provide funding for the highly successful E-rate program which helps schools ensure WiFi hotspots and connected devices for K-12 students who do not have internet access and connected devices at home.

Supporting the safety, health and well-being of students and educators

  • Teachers, Education Support Professionals (ESPs), and other school staff who interact with students and their families, including food service workers, custodians, security officers, bus drivers, and others must have the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) and training to protect students, colleagues, families, and themselves.
  • The safety and well-being of students and educators when they return to school cannot be compromised. The needs will be varied, including mental health and nutritional supports, training for loss and trauma related to the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Expand funding to community-based health care (inclusive of mental health services) with incentives to partner with schools to expand care (targeted to communities with high rates of student households living in poverty).

We can’t open the economy until we open schools, and schools can’t open if we don’t give students and educators what they need to succeed!

To: US Senators and Representatives from Illinois
From: [Your Name]

The undersigned members of the 135,000-strong Illinois Education Association are asking our federal lawmakers to help preserve public education in our country by putting another $175 billion into the Education Stabilization Fund to address COVID-19’s impact on students and educators from PreK through higher education, outfitting frontline employees with personal protective gear and to help bridge the digital divide in our state so all students are given the same opportunity to learn. We are asking the following:

• The $175 billion in funding would help meet students’ most basic needs – nourishing food, physical and mental health care, support remote learning so schoolwork can be done at home and keep educators working so students can continue to learn.

• The pandemic has shone a spotlight on the fact that 1 in 5 students – a disproportionate share of which are African-American, Hispanic, live in rural areas or come from low-income families – struggle to do school work at home because of a lack of internet access. Please pass the bi-partisan Emergency Educational Connections Act (H.R. 6563), which would create a special fund, administered through the E-Rate program, to equip students to go online for the duration of this crisis.

• And please include at least $56 million for PPE in the next COVID-19 bill for educators and education support professionals who have continued to prepare and distribute meals, clean, maintain and secure school buildings, oversee technology needs and perform other vital work during the pandemic. They are frontline workers and should be treated that way.

COVID-19 knows no political parties. We are asking all of our U.S. Representatives and both Senators to please support our efforts as we continue to support students across the state of Illinois.