Rep. Sherrill Joins Event Announcing New Task Force Created by Mayor Spiller, Focused on Ensuring In-Person Learning for All Montclair Students

May 17, 2021
Press Release

Montclair, NJ -- Representative Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11) joined Michael Gray from Representative Donald Payne’s (NJ-10) office, Essex County Commissioner Brendan Gill, and Montclair Mayor Sean Spiller at the announcement of the formation of a task force created by Mayor Spiller focused on full time, in-person instruction for the Montclair Public School system. The task force will be chaired by Debra Jennings, who is a parent, former school board member, and longtime education advocate. In addition to working towards reopening schools for full time, in-person instruction, the task force will examine ways to address the lasting impact remote-learning has had on students.

The announcement came on the same day as Governor Phil Murphy’s announcement that the executive order allowing remote learning will be expiring at the end of the current school year, meaning all schools will be returning to in-person instruction for the fall semester. 

“As a mom of four kids, I personally know the overwhelming challenges remote learning has imposed on kids and the toll it has taken on students and their families this school year,” said Rep. Sherrill. “I’ve been fighting to get kids and educators back in the classroom safely for months — including with the resolution I offered in the House highlighting the need to reopen schools, the funding we secured for school reopenings in the CARES Act, the December Omnibus, and the American Rescue Plan, my push to prioritize teacher vaccination, and my work with key decision-makers across the district. I’m happy to see Congressman Payne, Commissioner Gill, and Mayor Spiller share my commitment to this priority. The creation of this Task Force will be a crucial step in making this happen for Montclair students. Now, as Governor Murphy lifts his executive order allowing for virtual learning, it’s critical Montclair schools are prepared to return to the classroom full-time. I look forward to seeing the Task Force’s work and to finally getting kids back in school full-time as soon as possible.”

Since schools began to close as the pandemic spread across the country, Rep. Sherrill has been focused on students impacted by the shift to virtual learning. As vaccinations became available and New Jersey began to open up again, she was on the forefront of advocating to prioritize the vaccination of teachers and school personnel and getting students back to the classrooms to mitigate the impact on students' education, mental health, and long-term achievement.

Rep. Sherrill has been diligently working in Congress to advocate on behalf of students and parents who have faced immense learning challenges over the past year. In total, she has fought for and brought back more than $4 billion in funding for New Jersey schools, including approximately $9 million for Montclair. Her work in Congress includes:

March 25, 2020: Rep. Sherrill voted for the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which provided $13.5 billion in grant funding to K-12 schools through the Education Stabilization Fund. These funds could be used by school districts to purchase educational technology to support online learning, hire additional teachers and staff to support health and safety plans, upgrade ventilation and other health and safety-related infrastructure, and implement expanded sanitation and cleaning programs. 

April 21, 2020: Rep. Sherrill and Representative Pete King (NY-02) announced the formation of the bipartisan COVID-19 Regional Recovery Task Force. The group met weekly and examined topics including when and how we could get back to work and school safely.

December 15, 2020: Rep. Sherrill led members of the New Jersey delegation on a bipartisan letter to Governor Phil Murphy encouraging him to prioritize teachers and school employees in the allocation of COVID-19 vaccines. 

December 21, 2020: Rep. Sherrill voted for H.R. 133, the Omnibus Appropriations and Emergency Coronavirus Relief package. This legislation provided an additional $54.3 billion for K-12 schools through the Education Stabilization Fund, with the same allowable uses of funds as in the CARES Act.

March 10, 2021: Rep. Sherrill voted to send the American Rescue Plan to the president’s desk to be signed into law. The bill makes nearly $130 billion available to states and school districts for immediate and long-term relief including to repair ventilation systems, reduce class sizes and implement social distancing guidelines, purchase personal protective equipment, and hire support staff to care for students’ health and well-being. It also ensures that 20 percent of the funding schools receive is reserved to address and remediate learning loss among students. 

March 15, 2021: Rep. Sherrill joined First Lady Jill Biden in New Jersey for an event  highlighting the need to get kids back to in-person learning and how the funding included in the American Rescue Plan for K-12 schools aims to help communities reopen their schools safely. 

March 16, 2021: Rep. Sherrill introduced a resolution in the House supporting the safe reopening of schools, calling for the prioritization of teachers in vaccine distribution, and highlighting the impacts school closures are having on students across the country. The resolution draws specific attention to the potential lasting impacts the pandemic may have on students and how it is exacerbating existing achievement gaps and disparities in the education system. This resolution received support from Governor Phil Murphy, the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association, the Montclair NAACP, SEIU 32BJ New Jersey, NJ 11th for Change, and Blue Wave New Jersey.