PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Democratic lawmakers said they want Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to provide clarity and guidance for school districts and institutions of higher education following widespread closures over the coronavirus.
Led by U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), the group of senators have issued a letter to Devos stressing the quick action the Department of Education must take in providing direction as schools prepare to make difficult decisions about closures.
“Increasing numbers of K-12 schools and institutions of higher education are considering school closures in order to mitigate the spread of the virus,” wrote the senators in the letter to DeVos. “We urge the U.S. Department of Education to consider several serious issues related to school closure as it works with school districts, state education agencies, educators, and institutions of higher education, as well as with the President’s Task Force and public health officials.”
School closures particularly affect students who are food or housing insecure, students who cannot access online learning because they do not have a computer or internet access, and students with disabilities, the senators said.
Students on federal financial aid and student loan borrowers may also be affected by school closures.
The letter outlines the areas in which the Department of Education has been urged to take action:
- How K-12 schools should ensure students can access school lunch programs;
- How schools using online learning should meet the needs of students without computers or access to internet and students with disabilities;
- How schools should ensure students receive a high-quality education online;
- How schools should provide mental health services remotely;
- How colleges and universities should help students enrolled in programs of study abroad affected by the spread of the virus;
- How colleges and universities should help students avoid using up their federal financial aid if they have to leave school due to the spread of the virus;
- How the Department of Education will help federal student loan borrowers if they cannot work due to the spread of the virus;
- How the Department of Education will adjust financial aid for families affecting by the spread of the virus (including job losses or closures)
The senators asked for a response no later than March 24.
Read the full letter below:
Follow KOIN 6 for the latest news and weather