Teach in-person or lose funding,
Billions for privatization, Stingy U.S. Senate,
The damage done, It’s still poverty
IT’S ALL COVID-19, ALL THE TIME
Is there really anything to write about besides the problem of schools starting during the pandemic…the threat to students and teachers…the lack of preparation and science-based decisions?
The big problem facing public education right now is the fact that states are coercing school staff and students back into in-person classrooms before the pandemic is under control and virtually every education writer has at least one, and often more, opinions about the subject.
Maybe it’s my “bubble” but most of the articles I’ve read (and posted) were on the side of “no in-person school until it’s safe.” The few that were in favor of opening schools in the middle of a pandemic took the side of 1) parents need to go back to work, which only shows up the failure of state and federal governments ability to provide for safe child care and provide support for parents who would have to stay at home to be with their kids, and 2) kids are less affected by COVID-19 so they’ll be ok…with little if any acknowledgment that in order to have kids in school one must also have adults who are at greater risk from the illness.
For me, however, the biggest problem is the same one that the media has faced since the current occupant of the White House* announced his candidacy four years ago; there is so much shit going on — mostly from Washington D.C. — that one can’t keep up with it.
Take a look at the news. There is no longer any such thing as a 24-hour news cycle. Now it’s more like 24 seconds…the time it takes “tiny fingers” to tweet something outrageous. “Little kids are immune to coronavirus” (not true), “Hydroxychloroquine will cure COVID-19” (not true), and other things that are also not true. Meanwhile, there are [the current number of Americans dying daily] Americans dead today who were alive yesterday, and a total of [the current total of Americans dead from COVID-19] Americans who are dead from the pandemic. As of this writing (August 7, 2020), nearly 158,000 dead.
TEACH IN PERSON OR LOSE FUNDING
First, the Indiana supermajority has decided that the current occupant of the White House* and his ignorant Secretary of Education have the right idea — double down on their plan to privatize public education by requiring schools to reopen for in-person instruction or lose federal funding. Local control be damned.
The current President Pro Tempore of the Indiana Senate has jumped on that bandwagon and will cut by 15 percent, funding for schools that don’t provide in-person instruction. Local control be damned.
The decision for schools to remain closed in counties with a dangerously high prevalence of COVID-19, therefore, is out of the hands of local health departments and school boards. The Republicans in the Indiana General Assembly intend to punish any school or school system which dares to keep its students and staff members safe. Guess which school systems, and which students will be hurt the most by this.
Public schools that do not offer an in-person education option could see their budgets slashed, despite prior assurances from Gov. Eric Holcomb and other state leaders that they would be fully funded.
Senate President Pro Tempore Rodric Bray sent a letter to school leaders Thursday – after dozens of districts around the state have already started — to offer “a bit more clarity” about state funding. Only public schools offering in-person instruction or both in-person and virtual options are likely to be fully funded, he said in the letter obtained by IndyStar.
BILLIONS FOR PRIVATIZATION
Money meant for public education was diverted to private, mostly religious, schools. Fortunately for Indiana, Republican State Superintendent Jennifer McCormick made sure that the damage was minimal.
Private schools got billions in taxpayer money: Under PPP, private schools, both religious and secular, got between $2.67 billion and $6.47 billion. At least 5,691 private schools, including at least 4,006 private religious schools, got “loans” from PPP – and remember, these loans can be mostly forgiven by the government as long as the schools meet a few criteria, so they are really grants.
Private schools often received more money than nearby public schools: Public schools were not eligible for PPP, but they were able to receive funds from a separate coronavirus relief program called ESSER. The ESSER fund allocated $13.2 billion in pandemic recovery funds for public school districts. But we know that private schools might have received as much as $6.47 billion under PPP. That’s nearly half of the ESSER fund – even though private schools serve only 10 percent of the student population.
NO HELP FROM MCCONNELL & CO
Next, don’t expect much help from the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate. After already diverting an outsized chunk of coronavirus relief help to private schools, the Senate plan has no desire to help struggling public school systems.
First Myth The leaders in the U.S. Senate say there is more money for public schools in the HEALS Act than there is in the HEROES Act: The HEALS Act would award $105 billion for K-12 and higher education while the HEROES Act would award only $90 billion.
The Facts …The Vice President for State Policy and Tax at The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Michael Leachman explains that already, “Huge state and local budget shortfalls are forcing schools to lay off teachers and other employees, making it even harder to open safely or provide adequate remote instruction. Because the pandemic forced states to shut down their economies, state and local revenues have fallen off the table. Already, states and localities have furloughed or laid off 1.5 million workers, including 667,000 bus drivers, cleaning staff and other school workers, and imposed other steep funding cuts. Without more federal aid, cash strapped states—which must balance their budgets each year—likely will continue cutting school funding, forcing more layoffs and other cuts in school support… Yet the Senate Republican plan… offers no new general fiscal aid to states, only to schools to cover reopening costs… With fewer staff and dollars, schools would find it even harder to open safely and provide high-quality instruction.”
THE DAMAGE IS DONE
Nearly everyone wants students to be in school. Teachers didn’t study education for four (or more) years, accept lower than average salaries (compared to other college graduates), in order to sit behind a computer screen and try to keep the attention of several dozen inattentive students. Teachers want to be in the classroom, interacting with students. Relationships are one of the most important parts of a good classroom atmosphere. The damage from COVID-19 is already done.
First, virtual learning should open everyone’s eyes to how much goes on at school. Last spring, there was simply no way to replicate, in a virtual setting, my daily classroom routine. Virtual learning uncovered the vast amount of work that teachers were ushering kids through each day. It was a literal ton of work. It raised questions about the purpose and ends of the work we were assigning and exposed the reality that we continue to worry about the number of work students produce ahead of the work’s relevance to, and interest of, students. We need to grapple with the balance between quality instruction and quantity of instruction.
Second, the driving factor concerning the quantity of work heaped upon students was revealed this spring-testing. With testing suspended, it hastened teachers’ ability to truncate and focus their instruction, which led to more questions about why we rely so heavily on testing. Clearly, schools and teachers understood which students needed more help even when testing was no more. If teachers and schools know who needs help without standardized tests, it is a reasonable conclusion that testing resources should be reallocated more effectively.
IT’S STILL POVERTY
From September 2019: The problem is race and poverty. America is failing.
To determine what accounted for the correlation, they controlled for racial differences in school poverty and found that segregation no longer predicted the achievement gaps. That meant the association between racial segregation and the growth of achievement gaps operated entirely through differences in school poverty.
“While racial segregation is important, it’s not the race of one’s classmates that matters, per se,” said Reardon. “It’s the fact that in America today, racial segregation brings with it very unequal concentrations of students in high- and low-poverty schools.”
* WARNING: Politics:
I’ve decided that I can no longer use the proper name of the current occupant of the White House or the title which he has sullied in his less than 4 years in office. He has shown that he is willing to provide more help to red states, “his people”, than to “Democratic states” (see also here).
In that respect, I no longer consider him the President of the United States (even though I live in a state filled with “his people”). He has proven that he is only the president of his base, of which I am not, and never will be, a member.