Mary Margaret Olohan, DCNF
Republican lawmakers introduced a bill Thursday meant to incentivize schools to reopen from coronavirus closures by September 5.
Republican Reps. Jim Banks of Indiana and Tom Tiffany of Wisconsin introduced the Reopen Our Schools Act Thursday, which would withhold federal funding from schools that don’t open in the fall for in-person learning.
“There are too many negative consequences for our children, their teachers and parents if we fail to reopen our schools in the fall,” Banks told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “Schools must come up with a plan to safely reopen, and this bill is designed to push them to do it.”
The move comes as educators and lawmakers discuss plans to slowly reopen the United States after several months of shutdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Projections from the Oregon-based nonprofit NWEA predict that students will return to school in the fall with less than 50% of learning gains in math, relative to an average school year, and 70% of learning gains in reading, the publication reports. The WSJ also noted that children who are from poorer families often lack high speed internet and thus could not complete their classwork.
“These open-ended school shutdowns have set students back, made it harder for teachers to teach, and pushed parents to the breaking point,” Tiffany said. “It’s time to reopen America and get back to school.”
Teachers had warned the DCNF in March, at the start of closures and school shutdowns, that remote teaching can be effective under certain circumstances, but factors like age or accessibility to internet, technology, and meals may be drawbacks.
“Long story short: Yes, remote teaching can work, but even under optimal conditions it requires considerable preparation and technology, which hasn’t been an option during this crisis,” Finnegan Schick, a public school high school teacher in a low-income south Boston neighborhood in Roxbury, Massachusetts, told the DCNF in March.
Dr. Anthony Fauci said during a May senate hearing that reopening schools without a vaccine was “a very risky and indeed a dangerous prospect.” Fauci, the top epidemiologist on the White House coronavirus task force, did not specifically say that schools could not reopen, but he warned that reopening schools could present problems.
Fauci also said in April that he fully expects that “by the time we get to the fall that we will have this under control enough that it certainly will not be the way it is now, where people are shutting schools.”
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