American public schools have been the subject of many debates and discussions in the news lately. And while this is primarily because of the position that the coronavirus puts students in and the opinions of many political figures, I believe that some things are going unsaid. If you have read some of my past COVID-19 posts, you probably have noticed a pattern in the impact of the pandemic on American politics and the government. It’s exposing the weak and vulnerable aspects of the country, and we need to make sure we are paying attention while reforming what’s broken. As always, I will include some resources and articles throughout and at the end, for further research.
disclaimer: I will be objective when it comes to the facts and sides of the arguments. However, I do think it is important to share my opinions, so when I change from fact to opinion, I will make it clear.
overview. First, I’m going to do an overview of what’s happening and what’s being said, in an objective manner. As states start to reopen and encourage people to go back to life per usual, the question about what the school year will look like has come up. The Secretary of Education is promoting the idea of a full reopening of schools. Trump is threatening to defund schools that don’t reopen. On the other side of the debate, Democrats and teachers are strongly opposed to the idea of full reopening due to many risks and uncertainties. There is also no clear plan from the government about how to safely move back to in-person schools. Additionally, international students are being threatened, however, I will discuss that in another post.
government’s side of the debate. This side of the debate includes people such as Betsy DeVos and Trump. The main concern is that virtual learning is ineffective. No one is disputing that, however, the solution is a total integration back to 100% in-person schooling. The government’s “incentive” to pressurize local leaders to reopen schools is a threat of retracting federal funding.
the other side of the debate. As expected, this side of the argument consists of students, teachers, parents, local leaders, etc. Their main worry is that if we go back to in-person schools, we jeopardize the health of everyone and will see another wave of coronavirus cases (like we are now). There is also a strong urging for more funds to properly continue education while ensuring the health of everyone.
funding. This entire debate is masking what the true issue is, funding, and a lack thereof. Even before the coronavirus, public schools have been underfunded and lacking in the proper resources. Health-wise, the previous ratio of students to nurses, counselors, and health workers did not match up to the needs of students and communities. To go back to school with the current funding, as the president has demanded, would be disastrous because of how lacking schools are in the supplies and funds. Furthermore, to threaten schools with defunding, simply because they disagree about how to approach the pandemic, is in my opinion, immature and senseless on behalf of the government. This is another topic for another post, but I think we should also keep in mind the hypocritical messages that this sends.
virtual learning. I wrote a post about how this pandemic is adding to the homework gap, which is also directly related to the government’s lack of commitment to reform the public school system. A major point of the pro-in person argument is that virtual learning isn’t effective or a realistic solution. And while that may be true, the government’s solution to overcoming that obstacle isn’t to give schools the proper funding to safely and properly run distance learning. Instead, they are choosing to disregard increased funding and jeopardize the lives and teachers, students, and other school workers.
safety. Something that often gets overlooked in political conversations regarding the coronavirus is the safety of people. Although there are significant economic and social priorities, the safety of people and children in schools should be a priority. A majority of local leaders and schools are justifiably citing safety as their number one concern.
continued study. There are many aspects of this debate that I didn’t cover, including student vouchers, private education, childcare, etc. Which goes to show how much larger and more open the conversation needs to be. I encourage all of you to read more and educate yourselves as education plays a vital role in our society as well as the future of the country.
I hope everyone is staying safe and educated. It’s important to inspect both sides of such a complex and serious argument, especially when the lives and education of many are put at risk. You can click here to read more of my posts surrounding the coronavirus as well as resources to further your knowledge in the subjects.
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