Home > Uncategorized > NY Times Describes the Cold Reality Colleges, Universities, and ESPECIALLY Public Schools Face

NY Times Describes the Cold Reality Colleges, Universities, and ESPECIALLY Public Schools Face

August 9, 2020

NYTImes business writer Susan Dynarski offers a good synopsis of why we are reopening the wrong schools:

“For colleges, competition for tuition dollars is pushing them to take outsize risks to get students back on campus, while for public school districts, inadequate funding — combined with the failure of government to curb the coronavirus — is keeping them from getting children safely back into school buildings.”

So…. money (or more accurately, short term profits and short term thinking), not science, is driving the decisions regarding reopening. And what was behind “the failure of government to curb the coronavirus?” Money (or more accurately, short term profits and short term thinking), not science. From all I’ve read, in order to get the spread of coronavirus under control we need to shut everything down for 6 weeks. Because six weeks seemed like it was too long and we needed to get the stock market trending in the right direction we reopened too soon and paid the price.

And, as Ms. Dynarski note, things are only going to get worse for public schools and colleges:

Because of the crisis, budgets are being slashed just as costs are rising. Schools that hope to reopen safely need a steady supply of masks and sanitizer; upgraded ventilation systems; more school buses and drivers; a robust system of testing and tracing; and lots of extra real estate for social distancing. But the tax revenues that fund schools are drying up in the economic downturn. Elementary and secondary schools typically eat up 22 percent of state and local budgets. Across the United States, state and local governments could face shortfalls this year estimated to total more than $700 billion. And nearly every state has a balanced budget requirement that precludes using borrowing to get through this crunch.

Without extensive investment in safety measures, virus outbreaks will most likely close any school that opens its doors. And with Congress headed toward its August vacation, it’s unlikely that fresh funds will start flowing to local schools soon. In this environment, it is not surprising that many districts are deciding not to reopen classrooms, and that many teachers are protesting when asked to return.

The decisions of schools reverberate beyond the classroom, affecting the broader economy. And, like the pandemic itself, the effects spill across city and state lines, with the choices in one place constraining the ability of businesses in another to survive. A pandemic is exactly the type of interstate, multisector challenge that an active federal government is built for.

The irony is, had the POTUS taken the advice of the epidemiologists who were advising him, he would have slammed the door across the country in mid-March or April for six weeks. Had that happened these questions about reopening schools and colleges would be qualitatively different. Had listened to epidemiologist and persuaded his followers, who supported him through think and thin, to take a deep breath, stay at home for six weeks, wear masks and maintain social distancing for a few months, COVID would be under control at this writing. And by mid-September he could run for office saying that he slayed the pandemic and our country was past the bottom of the V and he might have been able to lift the mask mandate and social distancing by, say, mid-October. That road, though, was not taken… and so 13,000 public school systems and hundred of colleges and universities are developing lots of ad hoc plans to keep their heads above water for now and hoping that some relief will be forthcoming for the future.

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