- Children and parents can adjust to a new system of learning, but the loss of a loved one is permanent.
With the school year quickly approaching, many public schools have established virtual learning methods for their students. However, others are prepared to reopen, even in states with high rates of infection. The latter claim that they will be following CDC guidelines and taking extra precautions to ensure that students are not infected, but given the history of underfunding for public schools, these claims most likely will not be followed through, putting students and staff at risk.
The American public school system continues to face the issue of underfunding, stemming from the fact that the majority of school funds come from property tax revenue, creating a large disparity in the resources available for students from working class families versus those from wealthier neighborhoods. This lack of funding leads to fewer resources, programs, and teachers for these schools. As the government continues to issue budget cuts for public schools, many schools, especially those in low-income areas, have lost school programs, teachers, and services.
As we face a global pandemic, the public school budgets continue to decrease, meaning that many will not have the ability to stock hand sanitizers, disinfectants, and other items they claim will be available once schools reopen. With 94 percent of public school teachers in America having to spend their own money for school supplies and resources for their students every year, the same scenario can be expected with sanitary products needed to protect students from Covid-19. This continues as public school teachers earn about 11 percent less than those in professions requiring similar experience and education. Now, these overworked and underpaid teachers are expected to put their own lives at risk by teaching in public schools that are not requiring mask usage as the Covid-19 death rate continues to skyrocket in the United States.
In this time of international crisis, when strong leadership is needed more than ever, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is doing nothing to protect public school teachers and students. With no experience working in the field of education and having never attended a public school herself, DeVos has proposed sizable cuts to the budget of the United States Department of Educations, for the fourth consecutive year. This draws money away from public schools that already lack resources and funds private institutions that already possess the materials they need. DeVos has continually exclaimed that public school students must go back to school amidst this pandemic, instead of detailing steps for schools to be able to reopen safely.
The Trump administration has been repeatedly declaring that students must be sent back to school in the fall. Disregarding the guidelines outlined by the CDC for the eventual safe reopening of schools, Trump has threatened to cut funding from schools if they do not reopen. Despite these threats to an already underfunded system, many of the largest school systems in America are opting for virtual education options, in an effort to keep their students, teachers, and staff safe. School districts like those in San Diego, Los Angeles, and Maryland have chosen to begin the school year with fully distanced learning. Although the federal government is ignoring the advice of scientists and medical professionals in regards to this pandemic, many individual school districts are choosing to put the health of their community first.
Schools were closed when the number of Covid-19 cases in the United States were in the tens of thousands, but as the government urges schools to reopen, the current number of cases in America exceeds three million. With closed quarters, recirculated air, and hard surfaces that are not constantly cleaned, public schools are hotbeds for infectious diseases. In addition, children can not be monitored closely throughout the school day to endure that they do not make physical contact with each other, share food, or cough on a classmate, all ways that the virus can quickly spread. Many teachers and staff who are older may also be immunocompromised, making the virus especially dangerous for them. Expecting these individuals to work in a closed environment during a global pandemic is extremely cruel as they could very easily pass away if they contract the virus.
As the school year approaches, it is important to remember that test scores and grades are just simple statistics, but a human life cannot be replaced. Many call for schools to reopen because students’ grades have slipped during online learning, but sending children back to school would cause large spikes in the number of Covid-19 cases all over the nation, spreading not only amongst students and teachers, but to community members, family, and friends. Children and parents can adjust to a new system of learning, but the loss of a loved one is permanent.
Ishani Peddi is a rising senior at Starr’s Mill High School in Peachtree City, Georgia. Born and raised in Southern California, she moved to Georgia last year. She has been writing as long as she can remember and published a fictional work in middle school. A passionate poet, who has won numerous literary competitions, Ishani is involved in various clubs and organizations within her school and community. She is the Communications Director for the Georgia High School Democrats, the Vice President of the Starr’s Mill High School Young Democrats, a Civil Air Patrol Cadet, and an AAPIs for Biden Intern, to name a few.