Home > Uncategorized > Biden Proposing $130,000,000,000 Infusion to Help Open K-8 Schools in 100 Days… a Re-opening Decision that is Supported by Science

Biden Proposing $130,000,000,000 Infusion to Help Open K-8 Schools in 100 Days… a Re-opening Decision that is Supported by Science

January 16, 2021

President Elect Joe Biden put forth a $1,900,000,000,000 plan to keep the economy afloat through the pandemic, with $130,000,000,000 earmarked to as majority of K-8 schools within 100 days. This plan, characterized by NYTimes reporter Jeanne Smialek as “…a wish list of spending measures meant to help both people and the economy recover from the coronavirus pandemic” includes money to reopen schools, as reported in this section of the article: 

The administration says it wants to make “the necessary investments to meet the president-elect’s goal of safely reopening a majority” of kindergarten-to-eighth-grade schools within Mr. Biden’s first 100 days in office.

Administration officials are suggesting $170 billion for schools, supplemented by additional state and local funds. About $130 billion of that would go toward reopening, while much of the rest of the money would go to help colleges dealing with the shift to distance learning and other pandemic-tied problems.

Almost as important to schools is the fact that states and local government are slated to get funds as well: 

Mr. Biden’s plan would provide $440 billion in help to communities, according to the administration, in addition to the funds for school reopening. The relief plan would entail billions in grants and loan programs for small businesses (how those would work is not entirely clear), and $350 billion in emergency funding for state, local and territorial governments.

State and local governments have had revenues decline less as a whole than once anticipated, but have taken an uneven financial hit from the pandemic. They have significantly reduced payrolls, which is concerning because they employ about 13 percent of America’s workers.

This is important because without these funds local and state governments might supplant the funds they typically provide to schools with the federal funds coming as part of the pandemic relief. 

Will Congress support this proposal? it is evident that the House would do so, despite the fact that some of the progressives are carping that the $1400/person Biden is proposing is less than the $2,000 they hoped to provide on top of the $600 just distributed. The Senate is more problematic. Presumably the pro-Trump GOP members would be hard pressed to oppose the $1400/person measure because that is what their POTUS was looking for. But, in all probability, the party as a whole will oppose it for two reasons: it gives money to State and local governments with no strings and it gives money to public government schools.

An important footnote to the President-elect’s decision to promote the re-opening of K-8 schools. As noted in another NYTimes article by Apoorva Mandavilli this past week, research is showing that the COVID infection rates among K-8 children is half that of older children and much less than adults. In an interview with NYTimes Amelia Nierenberg Ms. Mandavilli offered this: 

“We already know how to make schools relatively safe,” Apoorva said.

A mask mandate is a must, she said, as is physical distancing. Good ventilation matters — open windows will get air circulating and even an inexpensive air filter can make a big difference. Extensive testing and contact tracing is key. The new variant will result in more infections in children unless schools shore up their precautions, experts told Apoorva.

And, despite reports to the contrary, the unions are willing to re-open provided the precautions Ms. Mandavilli heard from the experts are heeded:

Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, echoed the need for mitigation (with masks, distancing, ventilation and cleaning), testing and appropriate quarantines. She also prioritized reasonable accommodations between teachers’ unions and districts, as well as vaccinating adults who work in school buildings.

“It requires people to actually act in the way that safety, not expediency, is foremost in their minds,” Weingarten said. “The mitigation strategies have to be embedded and have to be enforced. Not just on a piece of paper, but in reality in schools.”

After reading these two articles I am hopeful that we will have a POTUS who understands the need for public schools and State and local governments to get the financial help they need in this crisis and a willingness to heed the advice of scientists in making decisions about opening schools. 

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