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Teachers union launches $500K ad buy calling for education funding in relief bill

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The American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the second largest teachers union in the U.S., launched a $500,000 ad campaign Monday accusing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) of stonewalling funds to help schools to reopen safely.

The six-figure buy comes as negotiations over the next coronavirus relief bill, which is expected to include funding for K-12 schools, have all but collapsedPresident Trump’s unilateral action to extend relief over the weekend, which aimed to break the gridlock, did not include education funding.

AFT’s ads launching Monday will run online for one week in the Washington, D.C., media market on Fox News, CNN and MSNBC. They will launch nationally as TV ads on CNN beginning Wednesday.

The 15-second ad cuts between a clip of McConnell calling for a pause in relief bill negotiations earlier this year and news reports about the virus. A 30-second version includes clips of Trump administration officials calling for schools to reopen and testimony from teachers who say they feel unsafe going to school.

“This virus pauses for no one,” the narrator in the ad says. “Pass a comprehensive coronavirus relief package now.”

AFT President Randi Weingarten in a statement accused McConnell of hypocrisy in calling for schools to reopen.

“For more than two months, Mitch McConnell and the White House have been shouting that they want schools and the economy to reopen, while shamefully sitting on their hands and refusing to act on an actual relief package,” Weingarten said.

“Signing executive orders that don’t address our real needs, including support for schools and child care, while effectively cutting unemployment and threatening Social Security, is a cynical and cruel political ploy,” she added.

McConnell has not been part of the current negotiations over a coronavirus-relief package. Those talks, which have since stalled, involve Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.).

As the Trump administration and Republicans have urged schools to reopen in person this fall, AFT and activist groups have pushed back, raising concerns over teacher and student safety.

Last week, AFT authorized its members to go on strike if schools do not provide certain safeguards for teachers against the coronavirus, including comprehensive contact tracing, mandatory masking, and updated ventilation systems.

McConnell included $105 billion to help schools reopen in his initial $1 trillion proposal in late July, well short of the $175 billion proposed by Senate Democrats in late June to purchase protective equipment, keep students spaced apart in classrooms and improve virtual learning.

Many districts have already reversed plans to reopen in person, moving to remote learning temporarily or for the long term. Several districts that already started their school years have had to quarantine students or move to online learning.

AFT previously purchased $1 million in ads urging senators to approve the House-passed HEROES Act in June.

Tags AFT Charles Schumer Coronavirus COVID-19 Donald Trump Mark Meadows Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Pandemic schools Steven Mnuchin teachers
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