Schools Get Caught Between Economics and Politics

Schools Get Caught Between Economics and Politics

( – Governors say it’s time to re-open schools across America, but some school districts are saying they need to slow down. For months, governors warned Americans they should expect a “new normal” and that includes how to handle public education. Those caught in the middle are teachers, parents, and taxpayers who feel like they are in limbo as officials struggle to create an affordable and practical plan that safely reopens schools.

According to The School Superintendents Association (AASA), 94% of superintendents say they are not ready to announce when schools will re-open for in-school instruction as they grapple with political pressure from politicians and parents. Regardless, governors are signaling that it’s time to open the schoolgates.

Student Safety a Challenging Proposition

Dozens of new safety and cleaning procedures are being “recommended” to school districts. Some proposals include:

  • Installing new HVAC filtering systems
  • Providing hand sanitizer throughout school buildings
  • Using disinfecting fogs or spraying classrooms up to two times per day
  • Wiping down classrooms between sessions

The larger the building and the student body is, the more challenging and daunting the task becomes to create a safe and sterile environment.

Then there are the issues of social distancing and masks. Some states are signaling they will require students to wear masks throughout the school day and on buses. It could become a challenge with younger school children who are not accustomed to them. The resulting behavioral difficulties in the classroom could make teaching even more difficult.

Has anyone stopped to ask what will happen when a child raises a mask to sneeze or cough? Kids are still kids, and a pandemic won’t stop that.

Money a Major Prohibitor to Student Safety

With tax revenues drying up due to the pandemic, school districts are already considering raising taxes or laying off teachers and staff. The first option just isn’t politically or economically feasible in many communities right now. Laying off teachers and staff will make student safety even more challenging. Yet, hard choices will need to be made.

To make matters worse, where are school administrators going to find the money to install expensive equipment and purchase sanitization materials? Busing will have to double in many instances, causing the cost of labor to increase due to the time it takes buses to fulfill routes. As states ease restrictions and people become more mobile, gas prices will also increase with demand.

Finally, virtually every school district has some level of poverty. Masks can get expensive if they are mandated. Right now, many school districts say they cannot afford to buy masks for children, putting the burden on parents who may not be able to afford them either.

The challenge moving forward for administrators and parents will be to determine the right balance between in-school instruction and online learning. However, that isn’t how politicians look at it. They say that if schools don’t open with children in seats, the economy can’t recover if parents can’t work, which means less revenue into state coffers. It’s a catch 22.

The questions boil down to this basic one: Who will pay for child safety?

With approximately two months until the new school year begins one thing is clear, the politicians, school administrators, teachers, and parents need a plan, and they need one soon.

By Don Purdum, Freelance Contributor

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