It’s mid-summer in America and parents, teachers and kids want to know what will happen in just a few weeks to open up schools. The president wants to see schools completely open and students back in the classroom. He’s threatened to withhold funding for schools that don’t comply. He is trying to bully them into compliance. Since most public-school districts in the country are controlled by local school boards and state regulations, it is questionable how much authority the president has over them. Not to mention the fact that federal funds are appropriated by congress, and it is an open question as to how much authority the executive branch has to distribute them, or not.
Advocates are saying they need more federal funding, not less, to deal with the added costs of assuring student and staff safety in their facilities. Everyone wants to see schools open, just like everyone wants the economy to open, with the caveat that it can be done safely. With the virus surging in most states it is hard to see how that can be done in the middle of a pandemic. Yes, America, we are in the middle of a pandemic and we won’t escape from it with happy talk and denying science. Now the science deniers are saying that the virus is no big deal with younger folks because they recover quickly—at least most do. This ignores the fact that younger people can be asymptomatic carriers that go on to infect older people.
It occurs to me that a systemic reason America has a dismal track record of dealing with the virus as opposed to other countries is our decentralized federal system. Every state is left to manage on its own. Within states every municipality is challenged with developing approaches to managing the crisis such as mandatory mask wearing and shutting down businesses. What good is that when the town next to you is wide open? The virus doesn’t respect boundaries. Our piecemeal approach has hindered our efforts to develop a coordinated, nation-wide effort. The current administration claims we are doing a great job, and everything is under control. No, it’s not.
With students itching to get back to school, and parents itching to get back to work and get them out of the house, the pressure to open up schools is understandable. We all want to get back to “normal”. But I’m afraid normal is not on the horizon, at least for quite a while. In the meantime, we’ll continue to be in a daze, remembering better school days. Rah, rah, sis boom bah!