Getting Students Out from Behind Screens
In response to public health concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, many children across the country spent months away from in-person learning and education last year. This meant that students and parents relied on either totally virtual learning from home or a hybrid method with limited in-person instruction. While school districts in Oklahoma and many other states have listened to public health experts, followed the science and taken steps to get children back in traditional learning environments, that is unfortunately still not the case everywhere. Considering that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised that students can safely sit three feet apart from one another, reopening schools is certainly possible and should be a priority.
Fortunately, Oklahoma schools are doing a great job prioritizing the education of our young people and getting students back in classrooms across the state. However, the consequences of inaction in other states will be eventually felt over time by our entire country. Sadly, studies have found that students are falling months behind in academics, especially in low-income communities and minority populations. The longer it goes on, the worse off the next generation’s workforce will certainly be. That could mean that future advancements and discoveries in many fields will also be delayed.
Moreover, for some students, being at school serves as a safe haven from bad situations at home and provides a way for them to get help or escape danger. Other students rely on meals provided at school for receiving proper nutrition. And with the heartbreaking reports of depression and thoughts of suicide among children on the rise, even more students have been affected by the isolation and loneliness of not seeing their peers and friends.
The learning-from-home model in some state school districts has also placed new burdens on parents. For example, many parents are not familiar with the tools or equipped with the resources necessary to help their children learn from home. Moreover, some parents may not be able to return to work until their children are back in school. This will further delay our country’s economic recovery.
Last year, Congress passed additional coronavirus relief, including unspent funding to help schools safely reopen. Unfortunately, many states are taking the money but continuing to keep schools closed. In the massive budget reconciliation bill passed by Democrats recently, even more money was provided for schools. However, some of that funding does not even have to be spent until next year. While I certainly support providing the resources schools need to get students nationwide out from behind screens and back in class, it is deeply irresponsible for Democrats to not require that funding actually be used for that purpose.
Like Oklahoma, many states across the country are proving that in-person learning and instruction during the pandemic is not only safe with the right precautions, but it is the best way for children to learn. All America’s children deserve to be back in effective learning environments. Indeed, the future success of the next generation of Americans depends on the quality of education they receive today.