The nation’s largest teachers union launched a $1.6 million advertising campaign on Thursday to drum up support for federal funding that union leaders say is crucial to reopening schools safely.

Television, cable and digital ads will push Congress to pass the $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill introduced by House Democrats.

While not perfect, said National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen Garcia, the proposal includes $100 billion for K-12 and higher education, $915 billion in state and local aid that could be used to help schools and $1.5 billion to expand student access to the internet.

Senate Republicans have said they are not planning to vote on any new relief until June.

“We’re going to talk about what’s at stake for students and communities, and we’re going to be organizing local and state Red for Ed rallies digitally, engaging educators and parents and the public to direct thousands of phone calls and emails to Congress telling them that we need this money. We can’t wait,” Eskelsen Garcia said on a conference call with reporters.

She took issue with President Donald Trump’s call for governors to work to reopen schools even after the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, cautioned this week against moving too quickly in sending students back to class.


“You cannot open up the economy until you can open up schools, and we will not open up schools until we can do it safely,” Eskelsen Garcica said on the call, which included National PTA President Leslie Boggs and other educators.

Districts are being warned to expect massive budget cuts that administrators say will decimate teaching and support staff at a time when they will need more people and equipment to keep students spread out and safe in buildings and buses.

“When I hear that budgets are going to be slashed by tens of millions of dollars, I’m like, `There go the aides,’” said Lara Center, an elementary school library aide in Denver.

The 3 million-member NEA said the ad campaign would run through May 31, with rotating videos targeting key legislators in the House and Senate.