Biden Airlifts the Goalposts on School Reopening: 1 Day a Week!
“Biden vows to reopen most schools after 1st 100 days on the job,” ran the Associated Press headline on December 8. Advocates of reopening who follow the issue closely could see the potential wiggle room—it’s not the federal government’s call, the full statement was shot through with hedges and conditions, “most” just means 50 percent plus one, etc.
White House: Our goal is to have 50 percent of schools open by April 30, 2021 — “at least one day per week” pic.twitter.com/7VNpG9i0Sx
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) February 9, 2021
This is the ground-softening in advance of the Biden administration’s expected guidelines tomorrow to “safely reopen” K-8 schools in the United States, which has had among the lowest percentage of classroom attendance in the industrialized world during these past 11 pandemic-cursed months.
Reopening has become a heated political issue, with labor clashes delaying in-school instruction in Democratic-run big cities such as Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles. Remote and hybrid learning has been statistically brutal on students and their parents, with the former suffering educational setbacks and significant increases in emotional problems, and the latter experiencing a mass dropout of women from the labor force.
Teachers unions and the politicians they support, including Biden, say that more money is needed to safely reopen elementary, middle, and high schools, on top of the $69 billion in additional federal funding they received in two 2020 COVID-relief bills. (The K-12 system typically receives around $40 billion a year from the feds.) Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief package proposal contains $130 billion for pre-college education, and an additional $350 billion in fiscal stabilization for the states. Given that public school spending amounts to around 20 percent of state budgets, it’s safe to assume around $70 billion of that would go to K-12.
Complicating that combined $200 billion ask is the fact that many schools are already open five days a week, without any new checks being written.
“More than 70 [percent] of all K-12 students in Alabama, North Dakota, Texas, and Utah have the option of in-person instruction, while Florida and Wyoming are teaching almost all of their students in person,” reported CBS News, citing the reopening-tracker website Burbio. “All of these states also have ‘right to work’ laws that say no one can be forced to join a union, which means that…if the district orders schools to be re
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