Children in elementary school wearing masks enter a classroom with desks spaced apart as per coronavirus guidelines during summer school sessions in Monterey Park, Calif. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

The American Federation of Teachers on Monday warned Congress that 1.4 million public education jobs could be at risk if it doesn't move to prioritize funding for state and local governments in its next coronavirus stimulus package.

Why it matters: The call from the nation's second-largest largest teachers' union comes as Congress is set to begin negotiations on its "phase 4" coronavirus relief package — and there's no clear consensus between Democrats and Republicans regarding the inclusion of state and local relief in that bill.

By the numbers: The AFT's report identifies a $93.5 billion funding gap in PreK-12 education, and $45 billion in shortfalls in higher education funding caused by the coronavirus recession.

  • It also says that another $116.5 billion would be needed in order to give schools and colleges necessary equipment to prevent virus spread, like masks, Plexiglas and hand-washing stations.

What they're saying: "Our nation is at a critical crossroad, and the decisions Congress and the president make in the next two weeks will be felt for generations to come," said AFT President Randi Weingarten in a news release.

  • "If Congress fails to act now, millions more American workers will be relegated to the unemployment lines and a generation of students will be added to the coronavirus toll. This time it’s foreseeable, and those who refuse to act will bear the consequences.”

Go deeper

Oct 21, 2020 - Health

New York reports most coronavirus cases since May

Gov. Andrew Cuomo at an Oct. 6 press briefing. Photo: Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

New York reported over 2,000 positive coronavirus cases on Wednesday — the most infections seen in the state since May, per COVID Tracking Project (CTP) and health department data.

The big picture: Hospitalizations have been creeping back up in New York, alongside 38 other states. New York is currently seeing more than 900 hospitalizations a day, the CTP reports.

Oct 21, 2020 - Health

CDC changes "close contact" guidance for COVID-19

Photo Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Noam Galai, Jamie McCarthy, Josep LAGO / AFP, Alfredo ESTRELLA / AFP, and Narayan Maharjan/NurPhoto, all via Getty Images

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention expanded its definition of who is considered a “close contact” of an individual infected with the coronavirus in a report released Wednesday.

Why it matters: The update is likely to pose challenges for schools, workplaces and other group settings as the U.S. prepares for a third coronavirus wave. It also reinforces the importance of masks in the face of President Trump’s repeated attempts to belittle their efficacy.

20 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Chris Christie: Wear a mask "or you may regret it — as I did"

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (C) and other guests at the White House Rose Garden ceremony for President Trump's Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett on Sept. 26. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), who was hospitalized with COVID-19, implored people in a Wall Street Journal op-ed Wednesday to wear masks "or you may regret it — as I did."

The big picture: Christie didn't wear a mask when he helped President Trump prepare for the first presidential debate nor during the White House Rose Garden ceremony for Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett in September. "I let my guard down and left my mask off," Christie wrote in the WSJ article.

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