Home > Uncategorized > Reopening Schools in the Name of Addressing the Lowest Levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Reopening Schools in the Name of Addressing the Lowest Levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

May 11, 2020

Charles Blow’s column in today’s NYTimes, “The Hunger Pains of a Pandemic”  describes the potential impact of hunger on the well-being of 40% of American families and at least a similar percentage of families around the world. His column offered this astonishing set of statistics:

As a Brookings report last week detailed: “By the end of April, more than one in five households in the United States, and two in five households with mothers with children 12 and under, were food insecure. In almost one in five households of mothers with children age 12 and under, the children were experiencing food insecurity.

David A. Super, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center, wrote last week for Talking Points Memo:

“In addition to the sudden disappearance of jobs, our other defenses against hunger are collapsing. Tens of millions of low-income children lost access to free and reduced-price breakfasts and lunches when their schools closed. Tens of millions more have lost access to subsidized meals in child care centers.The summer food programs that try to fill the gap when schools close will face formidable challenges this year.”

And Mr. Blow reminds readers that America families and children are not alone in this shortage of food:

The effect of this pandemic on the vulnerable isn’t limited to America. This is likely to be a world crisis of hunger and instability. As David M. Beasley, executive director of the U.N. World Food Program, wrote last month in The Washington Post:

The coronavirus pandemic “now threatens to detonate an unprecedented global humanitarian catastrophe. Millions of civilians living in conflict-scarred nations will be further pushed to the brink of starvation. The numbers are shocking: On any given day, the World Food Program offers a lifeline to nearly 100 million people. This includes about 30 million people who literally depend on us to stay alive. Most of them are trapped in war zones and can’t leave.”

I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect that a majority of those struggling to put food on their tables are also struggling to cover the costs of their rents and based on what I’ve read about the coronavirus’ impact it is also likely that those struggling to put food on their tables are residing in neighborhoods where the pandemic is hitting hardest.

This backdrop of increased food insecurity and– in all likelihood housing insecurity– makes it all the more important for schools to reopen as soon as possible with a focus on those schools that serve the children experiencing the most adverse childhood experiences. And this strategy of serving the neediest children poses a dilemma for policy makers in many ways.

  • SPACE: If space in schools will be at a premium due to social distancing then the most overcrowded schools will be the most hard pressed to reopen.
  • SOCIAL SERVICES: The schools serving the neediest children are currently underfunding the social services their children require, social services that will be even more in demand as a result of the food and shelter insecurities.
  • STAFFING: The schools serving the neediest children rely more on state and federal government funding than affluent districts. If State coffers are low the funding for schools will suffer and the layoffs in public schools serving the neediest children will be higher than ever.

More money for states will help… but the amount of funding they will need to compensate for lost revenues is daunting and the likelihood of there being MORE funding to provide the ADDITIONAL services needed to support the hungry, unsheltered, and– over time– poorly clothed children will be hard to find.

There are no easy solutions to this set of “wicked problems”– problems that are difficult or impossible to solve because of the many interconnected factors involved… and tough solutions require us to acknowledge what Anirban Mukhopadhyay describes as the need for us to develop “the know how to engage constructively with those who differ” forms in our thinking and opinions and to update our thinking and opinions based on emergent facts. As the ground shifts under us, that kind of flexible thinking is the only way forward…. and may offer us some insights into solving these dilemmas.

%d bloggers like this: