President Donald Trump announced at the White House his unequivocal commitment to getting America’s schools back open.
“So, what we want to do is, we want to get our schools open,” he said. “We want to get them open quickly, beautifully, in the fall.”
When the COVID-19 crisis was just beginning to grip the nation in March, parents were already concerned about the impact of school closings on their child’s education.
A Gallup poll showed 42% of parents expressing concern that the crisis would have a negative effect on their child’s learning.
Of those parents, the most concern was among nonwhite parents, with 52% concerned, compared with white parents, 36% of whom were concerned.
Nearly twice as many nonwhite parents, 39%, compared with 21% of white parents, said the school year should be extended into the summer months if schools remain closed for the remainder of the regular school year.
A new report from the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second-largest school district, sharpens the picture regarding why parents, particularly black and Latino parents, are concerned.
According to the report, 67% of Latino and 67% of black middle school students have been actively participating in online classes. Among high school students, 73% of Latino and 71% of black students have been actively participating.
That compared with 88% of white middle school students and 85% of white high school students.
Two prestigious organizations now urge that schools reopen and emphasize how critically important physical presence is in education.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued its “Guidance for School Re-entry” report. It provides extensive guidance for safe reopening and operation of schools.
It begins by saying: “[T]he AAP strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school,” adding:
The importance of in-person learning is well-documented, and there is already evidence of the negative impacts on children because of school closures in the spring of 2020.
Now the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has published its new report, with a press release headline: “Schools Should Prioritize Reopening in Fall 2020, Especially for Grades K-5, While Weighing Risks and Benefits.”
“Without in-person instruction, schools risk children falling behind academically and exacerbating educational inequities,” the statement says.
Both the president and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have suggested the possibility of withholding federal funding from schools that refuse to reopen.
Who has been on the front line pushing back against the president? Yes, of course—the teachers unions.
“No one should listen to Trump, DeVos on reopening schools,” says the president of the National Education Association at neatoday.org.
No surprise. The NEA’s priority has never been educating children. Its priority is protecting its members—i.e., teachers.
Teachers get paid whether schools are open or not. What do leaders of teachers unions care about the hard work needed to create a safe environment now so children can be physically present in school—the only real viable option for learning?
They don’t care.
Most recently, both of the major teachers unions—the NEA and the American Federation of Teachers—filed briefs in the Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue case urging the court to rule in favor of the state to deny tax credit-financed scholarships to parents who want to send their children to religious schools.
Fortunately, in this landmark case, the court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs—the mothers who filed suit claiming that making scholarship funds available to everyone except parents who choose religious schools for their children violates constitutionally protected free exercise of religion.
Responsible, free people courageously balance risks and competing objectives to come up with creative solutions.
We know the measures we must take to battle COVID-19. We can make schools physically safe. We also know what measures to take to prevent ruining a child’s future by depriving them of the education they must have.
We must get them to school.
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