Demanding federal COVID-19 safety aid, teachers threaten strikes

D.C. Bureau

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Saying the federal government has not done enough to protect teachers and students as the start of the fall semester draws near, the American Federation of Teachers has authorized safety strikes.

“They should be doing things to help us. This is not political,” Randi Weingarten, the president of the AFT, insisted.

She said strikes are a very real possibility that in states like Texas, Arizona and Florida, where coronavirus cases are surging.

“People are scared. They’re writing their wills,” Weingarten said of the teachers who are being told to return to the classroom. “There’s no national plan and no national resources.”

She demanded Congress pass emergency funding immediately to ensure teachers have the resources and protective gear they need.

“We need to make sure that that happens,” Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, agreed.

She and fellow Democrats like Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, said they understand teachers’ frustration.

“I want my daughter to go back to school, of course, but not if there’s not enough PPE,” Duckworth said.

They say Democrats have had a plan ready for months. It has already passed the House.

Republicans agree teachers have a point.

“However, we cannot also forget there’s still hundreds of billions of dollars still waiting,” Rep. Rodney David, R-Ill., qualified.

He said Congress will come around, but Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., said Republicans and Democrats are still miles apart.

“I’m certainly not going to vote for bailouts for blues states,” Hawley said. “Absolutely not happening.”

Republicans’ next proposal for coronavirus aid earmarks $105 billion for schools. The Democrats’ plan allocated a similar amount, but have since said they would increase it to about $400 billion — the figure the AFT is putting forth.

Lawmakers are working to pass a deal before recessing Aug. 7.

Weingarten said the cost to make schools safe will only grow the longer Congress delays.

“We need to actually have this money now,” she said.

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