“…Science does not support claims of perfect
safety. Schools are likely high-contact zones. Most schools cannot presently afford regular
disinfection; many students and their parents may object to mandatory masks (38 percent of U.S. adults don’t wear
masks when they leave the house); certainly not all kids will remain six feet
apart. COVID-19 can definitely
infect some children, some of whom can pass it on to their families,
teachers, school staff and other children.
“States test and
report COVID cases differently, but Bloomberg
News reports that, in Florida, about a third of all
children tested have been positive for COVID-19; in California it’s 8.4
percent; Mississippi, 9.4 percent; Arizona and Washington state, 11 percent.
According to the Kaiser Family
Foundation, 3.3 million seniors age 65 and older — prime candidates
for serious illness — live with a school-age child. Furthermore, another Kaiser study concluded that
one-quarter of all teachers (1.47 million people) are in danger of developing
serious illness if infected with coronavirus.
agrees that children sorely need the many benefits of school attendance —
food and friendships, books and basketball courts, time away from family, and a
safe place to spend it, plus stimulating interactions as they learn reading,
writing and arithmetic. Furthermore, 27 million working parents need
their children cared for safely during the week. ‘Safely’ is the hard part.
“Educators say opening schools safely will
cost up to $245 billion
on health-related renovations — billions that local governments do not have, and which
Republicans in Congress have so far refused to provide. The CARES coronavirus
relief law, enacted in March, earmarked only $13.5 billion to improve school
safety. Since then, Republicans have refused to provide additional funds,
instead suggesting that state governments should simply declare bankruptcy.
(Bankruptcies occur in federal courts, which would give Republicans a chance to slash social safety nets in
Democratic strongholds like New York.)
safely, schools need more money and more space. Doubling the distance between
students will require twice the space. Part-time online learning will require
access to broadband, and laptops or tablets for everyone. According to a recent survey, only 24
percent of teachers report that all their students have access to a tablet or
laptop for school work. In addition, everyone will need masks, and schools will
require frequent, thorough cleaning.
“The Washington Post reports that Congress is
currently negotiating a bill that might give schools another $50 billion to
$100 billion — still far below the amount needed to make schools safe. Plus, the Post says, Trump and DeVos
are angling to give the money only to schools that open fully. They want to
punish schools that open only part-time.
“Why are Trump and DeVos saddling
parents and public schools with this impossible dilemma? Trump just wants to
win the election November 3 and he apparently thinks opening schools will make
everything appear normal. DeVos appears to have a more devious agenda.
“DeVos blurted out her coronavirus plan on ‘Fox
News Sunday’ when she said,
‘American investment in education is a promise to students and their families.
If schools aren’t going to reopen and not fulfill that promise, they shouldn’t
get the funds. Then give it to the families to decide to go to a school that is
going to meet that promise.’
“It’s no secret
that DeVos would like to privatize all public schools. If public
schools become hotbeds of infection, confidence in public education will
diminish; perhaps then more parents would join DeVos in pressing to eliminate
the public school system entirely. This agenda should surprise no one — it has
been Betsy DeVos’s religious mission for the past 25 years.
“DeVos is a fundamentalist
Christian who has said she
wants ‘to confront the culture to advance God’s Kingdom.’ To do that, she said,
God led her to reform public education, which in her mind means privatizing it.
“‘It’s been a long-standing goal of the
Religious Right to replace public education with Christian education,’ says Julie Ingersoll, a professor of
religious studies. ‘The long-term strategy of how to change culture is through
education.’ On June 30, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the state can fund
religious schools, which DeVos called ‘a historic victory.’
“DeVos is also a
so-called deeply anti-government libertarian. An editor with the Detroit Free Press says DeVos is
driven ‘by her conviction that any nontraditional public school is better than
a traditional one, simply because it is not operated by government.’
“Since the early
1990s, in her home state of Michigan, DeVos has led and funded a libertarian anti-government
movement to give parents ‘school choice.’ This means taking taxpayer money from
public schools and giving it directly to parents in the form of ‘school vouchers’
which can be used like cash to pay expenses for sending a child to any school
that will accept them, including public schools, private schools, religious
schools and ‘charter schools.’ Vouchers are always promoted and defended as a
way to give poor people a decent education, but that’s often a cover for other
“Charter schools are
‘public’ schools in the sense that the public pays for them. However, charters
are privately owned and operated; they choose their own students, manage their
own curriculum, and in most places are not answerable or accountable to local
school districts or school boards or to anyone else. They can teach whatever
they want and manage their money in secret.
“With Betsy DeVos
and her husband funding and cheerleading the campaign, in 1994, the state of
Michigan bet heavily on charter schools. It has not gone well. In 2014, a yearlong investigation of
Michigan’s charter schools by the Detroit Free Press revealed: ‘Wasteful spending
and double-dipping. Board members, school founders and employees steering
lucrative deals to themselves or insiders. Schools allowed to operate for years
despite poor academic records. No state standards for who operates charter
schools or how to oversee them.’
“As a lengthy New York Times exposé revealed in 2017, ‘Michigan
Gambled on Charter Schools. The Children Lost.’ As the Times pointed out, ‘it’s important
to understand that what happened to Michigan’s schools isn’t solely, or even
primarily, an education story: It’s a business story.’
choice’ movement is driven by libertarian malice toward all government, but it
is also driven powerfully by the profit motive. U.S. public schools spend $694 billion each
year and a lot of hucksters — many with no experience as educators — want a
slice of that pie.
a writer and advocate for public education, has described the ‘corporate
predation’ attacking U.S. public schools. In 2007, Kozol reported that a group
of investment bank analysts said privatizing public schools offered the biggest
profit opportunity since health care services were privatized in the 1970s. ‘The
K-12 market is the Big Enchilada,’ one banker wrote.
“Because they can
choose their own students, charter schools tend to select students whose parents are well-to-do and
resourceful, leaving the public schools with reduced funds to educate the
remaining kids, whose parents are poorer. In this way, ‘school choice’
increases inequality in the nation’s educational system.
“In the U.S.,
conservatism and racism have always gone hand in hand. Vouchers and charter schools
have become a legal way to maintain and expand racial segregation. It’s
probably no accident that the idea of school vouchers was invented by libertarian
economist Milton Friedman in 1955 — the same year the U.S. Supreme Court ruled
that public schools must be racially integrated ‘with all deliberate speed.’
“After Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, Southern
states were looking for a way to evade school integration; private schools were
the answer, but they were expensive. School vouchers (and later, charter
schools) solved that problem by diverting taxpayer money to private schools,
maintaining racially segregated schools, separate and unequal.
“From the DeVos/Trump viewpoint, privatizing
education has another major benefit — eliminating or weakening teachers’ unions, which
are among the nation’s largest and strongest remaining labor organizations. As
a Republican Party donor and leader in Michigan, DeVos has aggressively opposed
“In 2012, she and her husband pushed through an anti-union ‘right-to-work’
law, outlawing labor contracts that require all employees in a unionized
workplace to pay dues for union representation. In 2018, the U.S. Supreme
Court’s Janus decision made
‘right to work’ the law of the land nationwide.
important factor in the quality of public schools is funding, but the
second most important factor is the quality of the teaching. To maintain
quality, teachers — rather than bureaucrats or business managers — must shape
the curriculum and control the amount of time teachers spend in collaborative
planning and in individual tutoring.
“Furthermore, teacher pay and years of
experience are crucial to successful schools. Without collective bargaining
provided by a union, teachers cannot have a serious voice in school
“As Trump and
DeVos demand that all schools open in the fall, despite the obvious health
hazards to tens of millions of people, we can recognize their cynical plan as
part of a long-term strategy by conservatives to eliminate democracy’s most
important foundation — an informed populace based on quality education for all.
“To ensure a decent education for all, instead
of privatizing schools we could eliminate poverty and stop funding public
schools by property taxes, which inherently produces unequal school funding.
We could easily fund all public schools adequately and equally, and, finally,
we could protect, support and strengthen teachers’ unions. If Democrats are
serious about ‘resistance,’ they will take this stand, loud and bold, for
public health and quality education for all” (Truthout).
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