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Why additional COVID-19 school funds might not help


Frederick M. Hess and Hannah Warren

As the pandemic rages on, the nation needs to get schools open and students back in the classroom — in person.

Prolonged school closures have had devastating effects for learning and the emotional well-being of students.

And while the evidence is now clear that schools can safely and responsibly open for in-person instruction, doing so requires new routines that allow for social distancing and new outlays for personal protective equipment and COVID-19 testing.

While schools can open for in-person instruction, doing so requires new outlays for personal protective equipment and COVID testing, the authors write.

More than this, as President-elect Joe Biden’s “Build Back Better” slogan has it, there’s a widespread sense that the goal should not simply be to get students back to school — but that the return should reflect an effort to address educational problems that have too long been swept under the rug.

This means getting smarter and more strategic about staffing, student supports, technology, instruction and more.

School administrators have not been shy about insisting that all of this requires more funds. Theron Schutte, superintendent of the Marshalltown Community School District in Iowa, enumerates outlays on masks, face shields, desk shields and disinfectant foggers, and offers that he’s “banking on and hoping that we have additional support on the back end of this to pay for all of [this].”

Austin Beutner, superintendent of Los Angeles Unified, says that the district is spending funds allocated for next year to meet the community’s current needs, asserting: “We’re robbing Peter to pay Paul,” and that, “The federal government needs to do more than they have historically done.”

That gets to the crux of the matter.

With Biden set to assume office in January, it’s a good bet that more COVID-19 relief funding is coming.



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