GOP-White House agree to $105 billion in coronavirus aid for schools

GOP-White House agree to $105 billion in coronavirus aid for schools
© Bonnie Cash

The White House and Senate Republicans have agreed to provide $105 billion for schools, part of which will be tied to the schools holding in-person classes, as part of a forthcoming GOP coronavirus relief package. 

The proposal, which is expected to be released Thursday, will divide the money up by providing $70 billion for K-12 schools, $30 billion for colleges and $5 billion for governors to give to either, largely lining up with what Senate GOP negotiators pitched earlier this week.  

The bill will tie half of the K-12 money to schools that re-open for in-person classes, while all schools will have access to the other half and the $30 billion for colleges will not be tied to in-person classes, Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntDavis: The Hall of Shame for GOP senators who remain silent on Donald Trump Skepticism grows over Friday deadline for coronavirus deal GOP expects Senate to be in session next week without coronavirus deal MORE (R-Mo.), one of the negotiators, told reporters. 

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"Half of that will go to every school on a per capita basis, the other half will go to schools that will have more expenses because they're going back to a traditional school setting," Blunt said.  

The deal came after Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinOn The Money: Pelosi, Mnuchin talk but make no progress on ending stalemate | Trump grabs 'third rail' of politics with payroll tax pause | Trump uses racist tropes to pitch fair housing repeal to 'suburban housewife' US Chamber asks Treasury to clear up 'serious concerns' about payroll tax deferral Pelosi, Mnuchin talk but make no progress on ending stalemate MORE and White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsPelosi, Mnuchin talk but make no progress on ending stalemate Overnight Health Care: Democrats say White House isn't budging in coronavirus relief stalemate | Top Fed official says quick reopenings damaged recovery from coronavirus | Nearly three dozen health experts object to HHS coronavirus database Democrats say White House isn't budging in coronavirus relief stalemate MORE met with Blunt, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyDavis: The Hall of Shame for GOP senators who remain silent on Donald Trump Wary GOP eyes Meadows shift from brick-thrower to dealmaker On The Money: Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire | Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks | Tax preparers warn unemployment recipients could owe IRS MORE (R-Ala.) and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderDavis: The Hall of Shame for GOP senators who remain silent on Donald Trump Several GOP lawmakers express concern over Trump executive orders The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Negotiators 'far apart' as talks yield little ahead of deadline MORE (R-Tenn.) on Wednesday evening. 

"I think we feel very good, where we've ended up with numbers and ... we're looking forward to passing a bill and getting across the finish line," Meadows said after the meeting.  

Alexander added that the focus of the negotiations was about trying to "make it possible for our school and colleges to open safely with as much physical presence for students as possible." 

How to provide help for schools has been a running point of contention, and is likely to be a key point of the negotiations with Democrats in coming weeks. 

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The administration views the resumption of in-person classes as a top priority. Trump previously threatened to defund schools that did not reopen for fall classes.

"In Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and many other countries, SCHOOLS ARE OPEN WITH NO PROBLEMS. The Dems think it would be bad for them politically if U.S. schools open before the November Election, but is important for the children & families. May cut off funding if not open!" he tweeted earlier this month. 

Education Secretary Betsy DeVosElizabeth (Betsy) Dee DeVos6 in 10 oppose fully reopening schools: poll Students at school system Pence called 'forefront' of reopening now in quarantine The Hill's Coronavirus Report: GoDaddy CEO Aman Bhutani says DC policymakers need to do more to support ventures and 'solo-preneurs'; Federal unemployment benefits expire as coronavirus deal-making deadlocks MORE appeared to echo that telling Fox News that "if schools aren’t going to reopen and not fulfill that promise, they shouldn’t get the funds."  

But schools are having to grapple with how to hold in-person classes, or if they should hold them at all, amid a spike in coronavirus cases across the country. Some school districts have already said they will hold virtual classes, or some combination of in-person and distance learning.

Other administration officials including Mnuchin and Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceBiden, Harris tear into Trump in first joint appearance Conway: Harris is going to have to answer for marijuana prosecutions in California It's Harris — and we're not surprised MORE focused more on trying to incentivize schools to hold classes in person. 

"As we work with Congress on the next round of state support, we’re going to be looking for ways to give states a strong incentive and an encouragement to get kids back to school," Pence said during a White House event earlier this month. 

GOP senators also quickly balked at the idea of tying all of the education assistance to schools resuming in-person classes, arguing that schools would still have costs they needed help covering even if they were doing virtual learning. 

“I just don't think you can come up with a national federal policy that’s a one size fits all. The circumstances are very different,” Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneTrump grabs 'third rail' of politics with payroll tax pause Davis: The Hall of Shame for GOP senators who remain silent on Donald Trump Trump says he'll accept nomination from either White House or Gettysburg MORE (R-S.D.) told reporters earlier this week when asked about tying the education funding to schools reopening for in-person classes.

Brett Samuels contributed.