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Senate bill would withhold funding from schools not teaching in-person

The bill, endorsed by Sen. Thom Tillis, would prohibit any federal funding to schools not providing in-person learning option by April 30

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — United States Senator Thom Tillis, R-N.C., is joining the push for public schools to reopen for in-person learning amid the coronavirus pandemic. On Feb. 4, he and seven other colleagues introduced the Put Students First Act 2021 legislation.

The bill, if passed, would prohibit the secretary of education from providing any federal funding to schools that do not provide an in-person learning option by April 30, 2021.

READ THE BILL: Put Students First Act 2021

It would also mandate that schools that do not reopen, but which have already received relief dollars for the fiscal 2021 year or coronavirus pandemic operations, be required to return the funds.

“The science is clear: our students, especially those who have special needs or live in underserved communities, will continue to face substantial learning loss and will not be able to receive crucial supportive services,” Sen. Tillis said in a statement, “I will continue to follow the guidance from our health experts and it is my highest priority to continue to fight for students and work to reopen our schools and resume in-person learning as soon as possible.”

RELATED: Gov. Cooper strongly urges all schools to provide in-person learning for students

Sen. Tillis joins a growing list of politicians, including President Joe Biden and North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, who schools can reopen safely if the proper protocols are put in place. They point to data and studies released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

RELATED: Schools can safely reopen without vaccinating teachers, CDC says

The bill, which was introduced by Republican U.S. Senator Marco of Florida, and sponsored by senators Joni Ernst, Kevin Cramer, Bill Hagerty, Marsha Blackburn, Steve Daines, and Tillis, comes as Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools remains all remote. CMS is the second-largest school district in the state.

RELATED: CMS says they're ready for students to return to in-person learning in February

“We’re in green in every category,” Damon Willis, District Manager of Strategy for CMS said while referring to readiness data about staff, school facilities, PPE supplies and more.

During the district's weekly metrics update Monday, Willis said CMS remains ready to reopen for its youngest learners as scheduled on Feb 15. However with community spread still at levels deemed ‘high’ by public health experts, some CMS teachers say they remain opposed.

RELATED: CMS teachers want to be a priority when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine

Just one day before the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education is expected to meet and decide on whether or not it is safe to bring students back into classrooms, a new petition is circling online.

“We are following the examples of teachers in Chicago and Philadelphia in asking all CMS teaching staff to protect their own health by continuing to teach remotely until it is TRULY SAFE,” the petition reads in part. As of Monday, 36 people had signed it.

The CMS Board of Education is scheduled to meet Tuesday at 6 p.m. WCNC Charlotte is told 25 people have already signed up to speak. If you wish to do so as well, the district says you have until noon Tuesday to sign-up.


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