Keeping Schools Safe
To say that New Mexico's parents and teachers have gone above and beyond during this pandemic would be a real understatement. So many of our educators have worked even longer hours and have been forced to come up with creative solutions to unforeseen problems. We must do better to provide teachers, students, and parents with all of the training and resources they need to cope with these challenges. However, we must also acknowledge that remote learning can never fully replace the rich experiences teachers provide in their classrooms.
A report presented to the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee yesterday found that far too many of our students and families are falling behind in the remote learning landscape. The report found that teachers have been unable to contact 1 in 5 New Mexico students and that 33 percent of students in our state are not participating in remote instruction. Those devastating statistics show us why we must prioritize securing the resources, equipment, and support schools need to safely reopen for in-person instruction so all of our students can succeed.
As part of that effort, I hosted a discussion yesterday with educators from districts across New Mexico on how we can improve indoor air quality in our schools. The latest science shows that creating safer indoor environments is necessary if we want to reopen our schools and businesses. Replacing old HVAC systems and investing in modern proven technologies will help with filtering out viral particles. This is the right thing to do in context of the pandemic and also for better long-term health of students and educators.
I'm pleased that the New Mexico Public Education Department has been working with school districts to assess and upgrade air filters as part of their plans to safely restart in-person instruction. However, I recognize that districts will need significant financial and technical support. That's why I introduced the Keeping Schools Safe Act to provide $1 billion in federal grants to help elementary and secondary schools across the country build safer and healthier indoor environments through more advanced air filtration systems.
I am calling on congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle to include resources for schools to help them improve their indoor air ventilation and air decontamination in the next major relief legislation we pass. This should be in addition to the $175 billion of additional funding that Congress urgently needs to dedicate for the Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief Fund. Without that funding, schools are already facing desperate financial circumstances and deep uncertainty as cases of the virus spike and we head toward the end of the fall semester.
I will never stop fighting for the support New Mexico families and workers need, the science-based public health response necessary to save lives, and economic investments to rebuild our communities. As always, if there is any way that I can assist you or your family during this time, please don't hesitate to contact my office.
United States Senator