As summer goes on and the school year approaches, parents across the nation wonder about the future of their children’s education. From preschool to college, it remains unclear whether schools will reopen and in what capacity if they do.
Last week, the White House issued a number of statements on the matter, including a note that the federal government will “pressure” schools to reopen by cutting off funding for schools who do not. This has drawn considerable criticism, as many feel it is not the government’s place to control this type of situation and should instead issue reopening guidelines to alleviate ambiguity.
The president also claimed he “disagree[s]” with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention school reopening recommendations, calling them “very impractical.” Critics of the federal approach to the pandemic have called for the government to deliver a clean plan of action, something which has yet to be developed. The lack of a federal reopening plan has led to frustration from parents and teachers as some schools announce in-person learning in states with surging coronavirus cases while other schools announce online learning in more stable states.
Coronavirus has led to an unprecedented change in the way we conduct our lives and the school system will be no exception. Changes to education forced by COVID-19 will persist long beyond the pandemic, with more online interactions and assignments. School athletics are being canceled, reduced or restricted, damaging revenue for schools and likely changing the future of these programs, and ultimately the professional sports they feed into — all the more reason to hope students can get back in the classroom as soon as possible.
In-person learning is undoubtedly more valuable and effective than all-online or hybrid learning techniques. Still, a public health crisis like COVID-19 makes those delivery formats necessary in some cases. Rather than cut school funding, one course of action calls to incentivize schools to reopen by offering special funding for personal protective equipment and cleaning equipment. This is a better alternative because it gives schools the confidence and resources to make sure they can provide a safe learning environment for their students while not penalizing schools that choose to remain closed.
This proposal raises several questions, the big one being, “where is this money coming from?” The answer to that question remains unanswered, but a tax increase is the historical precedent when additional funding is needed.
Alternatively, funds could be shifted from federal programs that are seeing less action during the pandemic. For example, global affairs are focused on COVID-19, so there are fewer disputes, meaning a temporary cut in the military budget could be a solution.
Ultimately, there is no perfect answer to this or any other question during COVID-19, but the education of America’s youth is of utmost importance and no expense should be spared. With only weeks remaining in summer, guidelines and assistance for schools to reopen needs to come soon.