Sullivan blasts Hayes for supporting ‘extreme’ school reopening plan
Originally seen on Connecticut Post
By: Emilie Munson
WASHINGTON — GOP challenger David Sullivan came out swinging Wednesday against the support of Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-5, for a Democratic proposal for over $300 billion in education funding to help schools reopen or provide distance learning during the pandemic.
“Jahana Hayes gives us nothing more than excuses on why schools can’t reopen and then demands extreme, binge spending that can’t possibly be justified by actual needs,” Sullivan said. “Her demand of $305 billion dollars represents a nearly 400 percent increase in total federal K-12 spending. This amount can’t possibly be spent in just the 30 days remaining before school opens in the fall, and it certainly can’t be well-spent.”
Hayes, the 2016 National Teacher of the Year, said Tuesday she wants in-person instruction to resume as soon as it is safe to do so. This week, she lead House Democrats in advocating for more federal funding to help schools cover costs of personal protective equipment, enhanced cleaning, new technology, increased busing and other steps accompanying reopening.
“Our primary goal right now is the safety of our students,” said Hayes on Tuesday. “We are not switching to a model where we want students never to return to a school building, but we are not ready to do that at this moment… we all want to go back to school but right now the federal government needs to invest the resources so districts can make decisions as they’re moving forward.”
Sullivan framed the political contention as a battle of the teachers: better known for his long career as a former federal prosecutor, Sullivan teaches law courses at the Yale University, University of New Haven and Quinnipiac University School of Law. He’s the parent of two school age children and “the only candidate in this race who has taught both in the classroom and via distance learning during this pandemic,” he said.
Hayes, who taught at Waterbury Public Schools for over a decade, hasn’t been shy about sharing her skepticism of Gov. Ned Lamont’s proposal for reopening schools.
“As of now, there are so many unanswered questions. I’ve asked over and over in my state of Connecticut, what happens if a teacher requests a test because they’re feeling symptoms or they feel like they’ve had some occupational exposure?” Hayes said. “The answer from every single superintendent that I’ve talked to, every education employee at the state level is that they would have to find to find community based testing on their own. That just does not seem reasonable.”
Sullivan backed Lamont’s plan to reopen schools in the fall with precautions in place, he said.
“The most effective learning takes place in the classroom under the direction of trained, skilled and experienced educators. Parents and students want schools to reopen,” Sullivan said. “We should allow our local school boards, who know their communities best, the flexibility to follow guidance, coordinate with state officials and determine the best way to reopen. A very expensive, top-down, one-size-fits-all federal response is wrong.”
The candidate clash mirrors the national divisions between Democrats and Republicans over school reopening. A Senate Republicans, Democrats and the administration negotiate new coronavirus legislation, Republicans have proposed $105 billion in education relief, without laying out how the money would be used or whether it would just be for K-12 schools or colleges, too.
“This country wants its kids back in the classroom this fall learning, exploring, making friends,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said. “Their educations depend on it. In some cases their safety depends on it, and so do the livelihoods of American parents.”
Although that’s slightly more funding for education than the Democrats’ Heroes Act contained in May, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y. are now pushing for a figure closer to $400 billion, noting that months have passed since the House bill was voted on.
On June 1, House Democrats, including Hayes, asked congressional leaders to support at least $305 billion in new education funding for schools because of projections of state tax revenue shortfalls in addition to new expenses faced by schools.
Democrats have said Republicans’ education funding offer is dead on arrival if it is tied to requirements that schools reopen for in-person instruction, as President Donald Trump has advocated for. Education Secretary Betsy Devos clarified that reopening would not mandated but is “the goal.”
Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., who chairs the House education committee, said the GOP offer of $105 billion is insufficient if Republicans don’t plan to aid struggling states — which provide education funding to public schools — as well. Democrats, in a separate bill, also want infrastructure investments in old school buildings and ventilation systems, a longheld priority that they believe is more important now because the virus spreads through the air.