January/February 2021 Issue
December 19, 2020

Federal wish list puts students and educators first

Author: Sylvia Saunders
Source: NYSUT United
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While the most visible change will be the appointment of a new education secretary, union leaders are hoping the Biden administration will also provide a new level of support for public education, from pre-K through college.

“We’re expecting a commitment to strengthen and invest in public education,” said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta.

“We have a lengthy wish list.”

Topping the agenda is a COVID-19 relief package with significant aid to schools, towns, cities and states, so they can recoup pandemic expenses and help schools recover from the devastating academic and social effects on students.

“The digital divide is real and must be closed,” Pallotta said. “Too many students are lacking access to high-speed internet or devices. Even after the pandemic is over, remote access is a basic necessity.”

A similar investment is needed for modernization of school buildings. The pandemic exposed the poor condition of too many school buildings — old heating systems, cramped spaces, a lack of ventilation and windows that can’t open. Federal funding is desperately needed so all schools can reopen safely.

Other initiatives on our federal wish list include: Increase funding for Title 1 programs, special education services and community schools;

  • Expand Universal Pre-K for all 3- and 4-year-olds; Double the number of psychologists, counselors, nurses, social workers and other health professionals in schools;
  • Expand access to higher education with debt-free public colleges;
  • Strengthen the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program; End the federal education agency’s obsession with standardized tests;
  • Invest in meaningful professional learning opportunities, teacher recruitment and retention;
  • Protections for DREAMers, or young undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children; and
  • Restore the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, to promote racial and social justice.

 

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