You know how I know that the corporate education reformers, and their leader, Betsy DeVos, were never serious about actually improving public education?
Because now, in the midst of a global pandemic, and a complete lack of national education policy guidance beyond “SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!“, none of these education policy “experts” have come up with any “out of the box” advice for how schools can reopen without endangering the lives of millions of children and thousands of teachers.
SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 6, 2020
What these “experts” have suggested are punishments, like threatening to withhold the 8% of funding for schools provided by the federal government to schools that open virtually–as if that will help anything.
Now that we have witnessed it on a large scale basis, and firsthand, Virtual Learning has proven to be TERRIBLE compared to In School, or On Campus, Learning. Not even close! Schools must be open in the Fall. If not open, why would the Federal Government give Funding? It won’t!!!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 10, 2020
And who would cutting that 8% in federal funding hurt most? Poor kids, minority kids, kids with disabilities–the children who can least afford yet another round of cuts to their educational opportunities.
So, want to open schools and looking for some advice on how to do so?
• Increase funding for public schools–the most conservative estimates are that schools will need an additional $245 billion to even begin to reopen safely. The Cares Act has provided $13.5 billion. Betsy DeVos has authorized $180 million in Dept. of Ed funding–for private and religious school vouchers. More than $2 trillion was spent on bailing out small businesses, like restaurants and bars, in the first federal stimulus package; Are we willing to spend around 1/10th of that to safely reopen our schools?
• Keep public taxpayer dollars in public schools–if choosing an online option for your child this fall, as many parents are considering, choose a district-provided option, not a virtual charter school, a private 3rd party vendor (like K-12.com or Connections Academy), or an “education pod” (small groups of families quarantining together and hiring private in-home tutors to teach their children)–an entrepreneurial “solution” that will only exacerbate the serious problem of educational equity in our society.
• Provide teachers with the equipment and technology they need to teach online if necessary–school districts should be paying for teachers’ internet services, updated computer devices, and upgraded software applications, not expecting teachers to do what they’ve always done when budgets don’t provide necessary supplies: reach into their own pockets.
• Make sure that teachers who do wind up teaching face-to-face in the fall have the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) to do so safely–masks, gloves, plexiglass shields, etc. And make sure that district budgets reflect the need for enhanced cleaning protocols in school classrooms, hallways, and meeting spaces. Expecting students and teachers to also serve as medical cleaning specialists in addition to teaching under dangerous conditions is a recipe for disaster.
• Adjust class schedules to allow for smaller class sizes (under 15 students per class ideally), shorter time periods (30 minutes maximum), more time between classes (for cleaning and disinfecting spaces and desks/chairs), more outside teaching spaces where possible, and renting or leasing additional teaching spaces to make these adjustments possible.
Of course none of this will make a bit of difference if we don’t start following the common sense medical advice from our nation’s infectious disease experts: wear a mask, socially distance, and wash your hands. And that means everyone, not just Democrats.
There’s a reason why Betsy DeVos and her education reform friends have yet to suggest any of the above measures: Because they would cost money, and Sec. DeVos sees public schools as “cost centers”, not educational institutions.
And every dollar spent on schooling children is a dollar less in profits for DeVos and her corporate reform allies.