By LaKeshia Myers
“Picture it, Wisconsin, 2020…teachers and students across the state are forced to return to classrooms. Local school boards attempted to put social distancing mechanisms in place; in anticipation they ramped up industrial cleaning of buildings, purchased masks for all students and staff and armed every teacher with Clorox wipes and Lysol spray.”
Oh, don’t mind me, I’m practicing the Sophia Patrillo-esque story I will tell my grandchildren about the pandemic of 2020, when schools were bullied into opening at the behest of corporate greed and government corruption. If you think this is scary, just wait until September.
Across our country, schools and colleges are making tough decisions about if, when and how to reopen for fall study. Some, like Harvard University have chosen to conduct all classes virtually next fall, while schools such as Liberty University partially reopened while the state of Virginia was still under a safer-at-home order. On the K-12 education front, questions still remain for Wisconsin families about how to adequately educate students in the midst of a pandemic. On social media, some parents have stated they would not be sending their students to school; they would homeschool them instead. Others have stated that they need schools open because their jobs will reopen and school is the safest place for their children to be while parents work. Effectively, the entire country is in a conundrum that could have been squelched had proper actions been taken when the COVID-19 crisis first occurred.
If schools reopen, this would make it easier for the rest of the world to return to “normal”—parents would be able to work and know that their children were being cared for and educated by qualified professionals. Who does this benefit most? Employers—who are looking to rebound from drastic losses that occurred during the shutdown. What is missing from this magnificent comedy of errors are the fiscal impact studies that will tell how much reopening schools will cost the American taxpayer. It is widely known that most public-school districts across the country are not funded exceptionally well. This has been highlighted more and more since the protests against police misconduct, which have denoted that in every major American city, the bulk of city budgets are being spent on policing (mainly the pensions of those officers).
What happens to the needs of students? They must be supplemented by fundraisers, teachers’ personal money, and the property tax referendums. But addressing COVID-19 is one issue that cannot be fundraised or crowdsourced. COVID-19 learning issues are going to force us, as a country, and more importantly as a state to “pay like we weigh.” Meaning providing schools with the funds necessary to: lower class sizes, recruit more teachers and paraprofessionals, sterilize buildings on a weekly basis, provide hand sanitizer pumping stations, masks, hazard pay, guaranteed workers compensation, sick leave banks and unlimited classroom cleaning supplies for each teacher.
If as a state legislature, we cannot commit to understanding what the fiscal estimate will be for this to occur, we are effectively reducing school to glorified daycare; and saying the lives of educators and students are disposable. There is no gray area; we are forcing people to go back to work/school when leaders at every level have refused to do what is necessary to protect the general welfare of our citizens. The bible teaches us that, “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7)—my grandmother would also add,“he surely gave you five senses”—meaning we need to exercise judgment and ensure our schools have EVERYTHING they need in order to operate effectively.
PSK-13 was right, these are most definitely games players play; night or day they just can’t stop it…we have to pay like we weigh. Because for the average Wisconsin family the weight is ‘sho-nuff’ heavy.