Florida Senator Marco Rubio is interested in providing substantial federal aid for state and local governments.
He said so during an appearance on Fox and Friends on Wednesday. The Senator said he would be interested in replacing state and local tax revenue that’s been lost because of the pandemic “because ultimately what you’re going to see affected is garbage pickup, police officers, firefighters, essential services…local governments we are counting on them to provide a lot of these services in the front lines of some of this response and those workers shouldn’t be the ones paying the price.”
I agree. But the Senator left out schools and teachers, an omission I find alarming.
Teachers have been on the front lines of the response to the pandemic. Admittedly, some have made the transition from in-person to online instruction better than others. But overall, Florida’s teacher corps has made the shift better than anyone had any right to expect.
When the next pandemic federal aid package makes its way through Congress, it should include a substantial fund for the nation’s K-12 schools – and perhaps $2,000 per student is the right number. That per-student amount, distributed to both public and private schools (making it both pro-public education and pro-school choice) would amount to $113 billion (there were 56.6 million K-12 students in both sectors this past fall).
Perhaps it’s too soon for such a federal aid package to move. Here in Florida, the Office of Economic and Demographic Research – the office that provides the Legislature with revenue forecasts – hasn’t provided any public guidance on the future of the state’s sales tax stream yet. So we don’t yet even have a really good guess about how bad the bleeding from the fiscal year 2021 budget will be.
But it seems to me that it’s time for influential members of the Senate like Rubio to start including schools and teachers in their discussions about the next federal aid bill. The future of our children – and of our economy – depends on them doing so.