FLORIDA -- The American Federation of Teachers has launched an ad campaign in Florida calling on U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio to support emergency education funding. 

What You Need To Know

  • American Federation of Teachers wants Rubio to push for more funding

  • Large teachers union has launched an ad campaign targeting Sen. Marco Rubio

  • Union says US schools will need an additional $116.5 billion to safely reopen

  • More political news

The nation’s second-largest teachers union with more than 1.7 million members says that in addition to normal funding, U.S. schools will need an additional $116.5 billion to safely reopen this fall.

It says this investment would cover critical instructional staff, personal protective equipment, before-and after-school care, transportation, and other items for students and teachers in Florida and around the country.

Similar ads targeting GOP senators are running in Georgia, Arizona, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia.

President Donald Trump said this week that schools should physically reopen in the fall and on Twitter threatened to cut federal funding if they don’t, though he didn't specify how or how much.

Congress appropriated $13.5 billion to K-12 education in one of the first economic stimulus bills passed as the coronavirus pandemic was just emerging in the U.S. But education groups say that’s far too shy to compensate for the additional expenses that would be required to reopen during the pandemic.

The AFT has published a white paper showing that social distancing will require that class sizes and students sitting on school buses will have to be drastically reduced. Paying for additional instruction staff would require $35 billion, and additional transportation costs would total $9.6 billion, the union says.

There are also line items for school health staffing, PPE, cleaning materials and health supplies, custodial services, and funding for children’s “social and emotional needs,” along with additional academic support.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, said this week that he is open to a “final” economic recovery bill that would cover some of the expenses of opening schools safely.

“It’s a dereliction of duty for Mitch McConnell to go on vacation in July without passing the federal investment our schools desperately need to safely reopen this fall,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten in a statement. “McConnell wasted no time when it came to bailing out big corporations, but when it comes to our schools and kids he’s abandoned them, their parents, and their educators. For weeks, our members and parents have been pleading with McConnell and Republican senators to take up the HEROES Act. McConnell saying, while on recess, that he believes the Senate will act on something is not actually doing what kids and educators need. Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos demanding schools reopen but failing to produce a plan or the resources required is not doing what kids and educators need. Actions speak louder than words."

The HEROES Act is the latest economic recovery bill passed by House Democrats in May. McConnell declared it essentially dead on arrival. He has said that he supports another economic recovery bill that will focus on getting kids back to school, restoring jobs, and boosting the health-care system.

Rubio’s office did not respond to Spectrum News's request for comment.