As Parents, Students, Teachers and School Systems Struggle to Navigate the Pandemic and Pressure to Re-Open, Schakowsky Hears from Students at Niles North High School

September 2, 2020
Press Release

EVANSTON – Today, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, Senior Chief Deputy Whip and Chair of the Energy and Commerce Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee, spoke with students at Niles North High School in Civics and Advanced Placement (AP) Government classes. She heard about their experiences during this pandemic and answered their questions on government and politics, and the federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Their teacher, Pankaj Sharma, was previously recognized with the Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2016.

“While hearing from these students, one of the things that came up over and over again is the lack of social interaction. While students have accommodated in different ways to the remote learning aspect, their happiness and well-being has been affected by this pandemic. And so many other stories of the impact on them from parents who are frontline workers, or have lost their jobs, and even one case of a parent who was on track to receive their green card and now that has been delayed because of this pandemic,” said Congresswoman Schakowsky. “We need President Trump and Secretary Betsy DeVos to stop playing politics with this situation, and not require schools to physically reopen to get this much needed financial assistance. I’m calling on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans to bring the HEROES Act up for a vote now so that our schools can get the assistance they need.”

“We really appreciate that you are advocating for state and local funding, because Congress hasn’t done enough yet. As a teacher, I’m very concerned about cuts in the future for districts like ours that will face deficits. If we can’t invest in public education for our children, they are set for years and our economy is set back permanently going forward,” said Pankaj Sharma.

As the crisis has worsened since the passage of the Heroes Act months ago, the amount of funding needed to reopen schools safely has grown. Democrats are now requesting $300 billion for our schools to safely reopen. This funding would stabilize the public education system and help state educational agencies and school districts maintain current services, including preventing layoffs, larger class sizes and cuts to academic programs and mental health services.

The Heroes Act provides both direct K-12 education funding and an additional $1 trillion in state and local funding to prevent deep cuts to public education. It directs more than $100 billion in emergency education funding, including $58 billion for K-12 schools, to help schools cover unexpected costs that are necessary for reopening safely, including purchasing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), cleaning and sanitizing classrooms, and making special accommodations for high-risk students and educators.


Rep Schakowsky and teacher Pankaj Sharma