Opening Schools Will be a Major Issue in the Next Stimulus Bill
Author: Greg Valliere
July 16, 2020
EVERYTHING IS POLITICIZED: If Dr. Fauci is politicized, and even the wearing of masks is politicized, then surely the issue of returning to school will be politicized. It will be a prominent part of the stimulus debate as Congress returns next week.
THE PRICE TAG for new aid for K thru 12 education, plus funding for colleges, will
approach $100 billion in what promises to be a bloated stimulus bill that’s likely to
win enactment in early August. Both parties need political cover; they want to
claim that they’re funding education in this new pandemic era, but the debate won’t
end in August.
IN THIS POLITICIZED CLIMATE, Democrats will claim that it’s not safe to return to
schools, while Republicans will cite the risks of keeping students at home, which could preclude their parents from working. Many cities, including San Francisco and Houston, will opt for on-line or part-time school attendance, which the Trump
Administration adamantly opposes.
AS USUAL, THE POLLS WILL PLAY A MAJOR ROLE: The focus yesterday was on polls showing Trump trailing badly nationwide and in the crucial state of Pennsylvania. But there was another survey that politicians will have to grapple with.
A QUINNIPIAC POLL released yesterday reported that only 31 percent of
respondents think it’s safe to send students back to school this fall, while 62 percent
say it’s not safe. Just 29 percent approve of Trump’s handling of the school reopening.
TRUMP HAS DEMANDED that schools re-open, although he has no authority to compel it or deny funding. So the fall-back position will be to incentivize schools that open by paying for masks, more buses, and more frequent cleaning. The GOP also wants more aid for private and religious schools, which will complicate the debate.
EVEN IF CONGRESS PASSES MORE AID, that would beg the larger issue: Parents may be reluctant to send kids back to schools. The risk of fatalities among young people is very low — the real risk is that they could bring Covid-19 back to parents and grandparents. And older teachers may simply retire; will there be enough teachers in Philadelphia or Chicago?
OF ALL THE ISSUES CONFRONTING TRUMP this fall, the lack of a coherent plan on opening up schools may become the greatest obstacle to his re-election. We wondered, as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos appeared on the weekend talk shows — what’s the plan? There isn’t one.
STATES AND CITIES will go their own way, hoping for stimulus money in August as some schools open and others don’t.
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