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Dem Bill Seeks to Prevent Tying Federal Funds to Reopening

July 21, 2020
 
 

Though the focus is on the Trump administration’s threats to cut off funding to K-12 schools that choose not to reopen this fall, a spokeswoman for Senator Mark Warner said a bill being introduced by the Democrat from Virginia would also make it “crystal clear” funding cannot be taken away from higher education institutions that do not resume in-person classes.

“Decisions about school openings should be made by local health officials, parents and teachers -- not Betsy DeVos or Donald Trump,” Warner tweeted last week. “I'll be introducing a bill to make it crystal clear that they don’t have the authority to cut off funding for local schools during COVID-19.”

President Trump two weeks ago threatened to withhold federal funding to local school districts that do not reopen. At a news briefing with Trump and Republican congressional leaders, Vice President Mike Pence said, "We will continue to advance policies that will make it possible for us to reopen America again, and open up America's schools."

While Trump hasn’t been as explicit about colleges and universities resuming in-person teaching, he has pushed for campuses to reopen. Most notably, the administration threatened to take away the visas of international college students who do not take at least one in-person class, before backing off last week. Associations representing colleges and universities have been less concerned about funding being cut off than the prospect of any additional aid in the next coronavirus being limited to help pay for reopening, instead of the other financial difficulties institutions face.

Meanwhile, as Senate Republicans and the White House continued to hash out a proposal for the next stimulus package, public colleges and universities on Monday urged Congress to give them the same tax credits private universities and for-profit institutions got in previous coronavirus packages.

Public institutions were left out of tax breaks created to help pay for expanded paid sick and family leave, and to help businesses that were forced to shut down during the pandemic.

“As Congress considers Phase IV emergency relief over the next weeks, we are concerned that public institutions of higher education may continue to receive different treatment,” the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, the American Association of Community Colleges, and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities wrote in a letter to leaders of congressional tax committees. “In addition to the disparities introduced by provisions in [the previous packages], some new tax bills that have been proposed to help Americans return safely to a healthy workplace continue to exclude public colleges and universities.”

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