Decisions on reopening schools is happening across the country as the Trump Administration has pressured governors to reopen schools his fall. With numerous threats to cut school funding for states that do not adhere to Trump’s strong-arm approach, North Carolina was one of many states that announced school plans.
For North Carolina, the choice of three plans rests with the local school districts, as hybrid models, remote learning and in-person learning is up for debate. Yet, as decisions are being made by school districts, the questions still remains whether state lawmakers will ensure the safety and protection of educators and students.
We cannot let unstable or unpredictable budgets get in the way of our educators being able to meet the needs of our students and keep themselves and our students safe in the process. We must consider what it takes to provide effective learning opportunities for students in hybrid or remote learning environments.
As Patrick Miller, Mike Lee, and Alan Duncan discussed on “Education Matters,” this includes asking our state leaders to hold districts and schools harmless for their budgets — even if they experience temporary decreases in enrollment due to COVID-19, and ensure districts have the additional funds necessary to provide sufficient protective gear and access to Broadband internet, as this has become an essential utility for functioning in our world.
Access to high speed internet is now the primary gateway to accessing a sound basic education during this pandemic, and the provision of a sound basic education is our constitutional obligation to every citizen in North Carolina.
It is clear to me that there are three key priorities that must be at the forefront in order to safely begin the 2020-21 school year in North Carolina.
Safety of our students, teachers, staff, and families;
Equity in access to robust, meaningful learning opportunities;
Resources and funding to support fall plans.
Last week, the NC General Assembly adjourned without enacting increased teacher pay, consideration of hazard pay for educators and ignoring the Leandro report mandate.
Recently, Gov. Roy Cooper has urged Congress to pass additional state support to expand access to high-speed internet and nutrition for in-person and distance learning students.
Gov. Cooper has also requested for Congress to take measures to ensure that K-12 schools, community colleges, and universities have the funds they need to purchase cleaning supplies, provide PPE, and other materials needed for health and safety.
Planning and securing resources for the educators and students across our state before the fall is crucial and cannot be put off until the next legislative session in September. North Carolina public schools need the support and budgets now to ensure the health, safety and equity for all, but lawmakers like Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, continue to politicize these issues.
Our leaders need to ensure safe learning environments for our students, no matter the decision parents, educators or school districts make. Right now should not be about politics, it should be about protecting those who take care of us.