Reopen the schools– but pay for it damnit!!

Plenty more good stuff on re-opening schools the past couple days.  A common denominator, part of the committment to doing it is that we commit to paying to do it right.  Of course, this being America, that ain’t happening.  Most states are far too revenue strapped and only the federal government can really bring the needed funds.  But, yeah, as for our federal government.  NYT:

The federal relief package passed in March dedicated $13.5 billion to K-12 education — less than 1 percent of the total stimulus. But education groups estimate that schools will need many times that, and with many local and state budgets already depleted by the economic impact of the coronavirus, it is unclear where it will come from.

“If Congress doesn’t do something in the summer, there is going to be a big mess,” said John Lee Evans, president of the San Diego Board of Education.

Dr. Evans, a psychologist, said his district hoped to physically reopen five days a week, starting Aug. 31, for families that want their children to attend in-person classes. But it currently has the money to do so safely for only half of the academic year, he said, and might need to revert to online instruction after the winter holidays.

“It’s incredible to me that the federal government would see the necessity of bailing out airlines and banks,” said Adam Goldstein, a fifth-grade teacher in San Diego, “and not see the need to do something similar for the public schools in this country.”

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, has said he is open to a “final” relief bill that would cover some of the expenses of opening schools safely. “We can’t get back to normal if the kids are not back in school,” he said this week

Regardless of which recommendations are followed, reopening schools will require changes. An average-size district of 3,700 students can expect $1.8 million in pandemic-related costs for 2020-21, representing 3 to 4 percent of a typical annual budget, according to an estimate from AASA, the School Superintendents Association. Districts say they typically operate on tight budgets, and even more so this year as state and local tax revenues run low.

A great piece from Sarah Cohodese in the Atlantic:

By prioritizing reopening businesses, states are wasting an opportunity to ensure a better fall for children and families.

This is the wrong course. Instead of speeding forward with reopening their economies, these states should do everything in their powerto make areturn toschoolpossiblein the fall—especially for younger children. This must be the No. 1 priority, and all other “reopening” plans should flow from that. This means keeping the case counts of the virus as low as possible, via business closures (with unemployment assistance and stimulus to compensate) and required universal mask wearing…

Since the beginning of the pandemic, evidence has emerged showing that younger children are at lower risk of getting COVID-19 and are not a major source of spread. However, no scenario is zero-risk, and although less likely, children could transmit the disease to adults. We can take advantage of children’s relatively lower risk only by keeping community transmission rates down and implementing a contact-tracing system.

In-person education is crucial for so many reasons. Students attending virtual school have lower test scores and are less likely to graduate high school—and the evidence comes from planned virtual schooling. Outcomes from emergency online education may be worse. Schools provide vital social-emotional support and safety-net policies such as food access, health clinics, and washing machines. Schools help detect child abuse and neglect. A virtual alternative risks exacerbating inequalities, such as access to devices, internet connections, quiet places to work, and adults to assist children in staying on task. The difficulties are greatest for younger children: They are at a higher risk of learning loss, are in a key period for learning how to read, are less able to have online social interactions, and need more supervision at home. School is important for the careers and sanity of parents. Many essential workers must work outside the home, and need school to help care for their children.

[lots of cool innovative suggestions– loved this piece]

This transformation will require sufficient funding. Schools are facing deep budget cuts due to lost state tax revenue. If a vaccine appeared tomorrow, schools would still have a fiscal crisis. With balanced budget requirements, states cannot step in: Only the federal government can borrow the necessary funds. The federal government must prioritize a bailout for schools and child-care centers that both covers budget gaps and provides additional funding to manage the special needs of educating children during a pandemic.

And David Plotz:

But the Trump administration can actually help! One reason schools can’t act is they’re cash strapped, because they’re funded by local governments walloped by the pandemic. The Trump administration could seek billions in emergency funds to be directed to schools. 

That money could help in all kinds of ways. Schools could upgrade ventilation systems. They could add extra classroom space — to maintain social distancing — and extra staff. They could put half the kids with their teacher two days a week, then with an aide two days a week in a separate space, doing remote learning but out of the house. The Trump administration could offer federal office space and launch a crash program to find and rent classroomish space nationwide. Similarly, it could create and fund a national teacher’s aide army of college graduates and college students — a souped-up Americorps. 

There are lots of problems with these ideas. Of course there are! Some of the teacher’s aides would be cruddy and abusive. Kids would end up in bad office spaces. People would get sick. But the federal government must do something beyond just bullying schools to open.

So, yeah, to open schools, we don’t know exactly what to do, but there’s lots of good ideas out there.  But, virtually all of them require a substantial commitment and investment from the federal government to make this happen.  But we live in Trump and McConnell’s America, which is why this is all so depressing and I just have to keep repeating my mantra (monoclonal antibodies and super-fast vaccine development).  

State school funding ranks high in Kansas - Kansas Policy Institute

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