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Biden administration says $122 billion of COVID relief will go to schools: "This spring, we want our students back in school"

Cardona wants schools open "this spring"
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona: "This spring, we want our students back in school" 07:21

The Biden administration is ramping up efforts to support schools reopening, announcing Wednesday that schools will receive $122 billion in COVID-19 relief funding.

"My priority right now is to safely reopen as many schools right now, as quickly as possible," said Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, as he joined White House press secretary Jen Psaki for her daily briefing.

President Joe Biden has announced that the administration's goal is for the majority of K-8 schools to return to in-person learning within the first 100 days of his term.  

State educational agencies will start to receive the emergency funding, part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan stimulus package, this month, the department announced earlier Wednesday. The money will help schools pay for personal protective equipment, improve ventilation, fund summer and after-school programs, avoid layoffs and pay for Wi-Fi hotspots and devices for students without remote connectivity, among other uses, the announcement states.

"We know that schools are needing that to not only prepare for reopening now, but to plan ahead. We know that when our students come back they're going to need more social and emotional support. We know that our schools have to be designed to meet the needs of our students after they return after the pandemic," he said. 

Schools are also slated to receive $10 billion that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will give states for coronavirus testing for K-12 teachers, staff and students.

"Its critically important that we vaccinate as many as possible and we promote the benefits of vaccination to make sure we have safe school communities. The message really is, if you're able to get a shot, get a shot. And that's a strategy to help keep our schools open," Cardona said.

Emily Oster, an economics professor at Brown University, said Wednesday on CBSN, "There is a lot of really reassuring information parents can look to when thinking about returning their kids to school."

"We have increasing, large amounts of data showing that schools have reopened safely, we have detailed contact tracing data showing that we are not seeing spread in schools when they are opened," she said, referring to data from schools that are taking steps like mandating masks and increasing ventilation.

She also pointed to increasing teacher and staff vaccinations as a positive indication that "we can get kids back into school soon, and should."

Psaki confirmed to reporters that the president wants to get children back in schools five days per week.

The administration has announced a daylong summit on schools reopening next week, which Cardona has said will allow educators to connect and share best practices.

"This spring, we want our students back in school," Cardona said.

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