Educators, Cartwright Urge Passage of Heroes Act

Congressman Cartwright met with Northeastern Pennsylvanian educators to ensure he continued to support their efforts in creating a safe learning environment for all. Read the Times Tribune report here:

As students resume in-person or virtual instruction, educators say they need additional funding to keep students and employees safe and to deliver quality, equitable instruction.

During a virtual press conference Thursday, U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-8, of Moosic, and local school leaders urged the U.S. Senate to begin negotiations with the U.S. House on the Heroes Act.

As passed in the House, the act includes aid for state and local governments to support teachers, first responders and other public employees and would authorize more than $100 billion for K-12 schools and higher education institutions. The act also includes more than $3 billion in State Fiscal Stabilization funding for Pennsylvania to support elementary, secondary and higher education to cover costs to support a safe school reopening.

‘We all want the same thing, and that’s to get our children back into the classroom,’ the congressman said. ‘Remote learning is not an ideal substitute. … We need to reopen in a smart way that keeps our children, our teachers and our local community safe.’

With state and local governments facing coronavirus-related revenue shortfalls, the safe reopening of schools hinges on federal relief, Cartwright said.

Without it, the community can expect mass teacher layoffs, cuts to programs and worsening education inequities, he said.

Schools have used their shares of Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds to purchase technology to allow for virtual learning and buy cleaning supplies and protective equipment, including face shields for teachers and masks for students.

The Scranton School District used a portion of its $5.3 million in state and federal emergency aid to purchase 10,000 Chromebooks — most of which have not been delivered yet — and clearing and protective supplies. Students begin virtual learning Tuesday.

With the financially challenged district expecting to lose millions in revenue over the next year, the district is in “dire need” of funding, Scranton Superintendent Melissa McTiernan said during the press conference.

The administration proposed furloughing 223 employees, a move which the school board tabled this week.

Internet providers have told the district they will keep wireless hotspots open and offer discounted internet access through December, McTiernan said. If Scranton students are suddenly without access, that will cause the district to spend more to get the students connected, she said.

In Dunmore, which started with a hybrid model last week, the district used the federal stimulus funding to purchase technology and cleaning equipment, junior-senior Principal Timothy Hopkins said. As the pandemic continues, the district anticipates greater expenses.

‘The money would be greatly appreciated,’ he said.

The Heroes Act also would provide support to higher education. The Rev. John Ryan, C.S.C., Ph.D., president of King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, said he doesn’t know a college that isn’t “bleeding money” right now.

Ryan, who teaches an online course this semester, called the virtual learning “inadequate” for higher education. Even once the economy starts to rebound, he predicts continued struggles for the region’s colleges.

‘We are desperate for some support here,’ he said.”