Last week, North Carolina Republican lawmakers announced that they are working on drafting legislation to reopen schools.
The bill would likely require all public school districts to offer in-person learning but also give parents the option of virtual learning if they choose.
Such a measure would attempt to force Gov. Roy Cooper’s hand, although the governor said this week that his education team is looking at the latest research that indicates little transmission risk if schools open with widespread masking and other precautions in place.
The Republican’s push to reopen schools comes as the state reports four consecutive days of over 100 deaths from the virus, with 752,627 total COVID-19 cases.
In addition, the Republican-led North Carolina General Assembly has done little to consistently fund proper PPE for teachers and have not committed to allocating funds to meet their legal obligation to provide a sound, equitable education to every student. Decades of cuts by Republicans has left the education system without the structure to assist students who are disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak.
Republican lawmakers have stalled since last January to adhere to Superior Court Judge David Lee’s signed court order in the Leandro school funding case ordering state leaders to “work expeditiously and without delay to take all necessary actions” to improve the state’s education system.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, and prior to, educators have expressed the need for more school funding to address unmet needs of their students, lack of materials in the classroom, and expand learning options to close disparities.
And with many North Carolina teachers still weeks, if not months, away from receiving COVID-19 vaccines, if the GOP wants to reopen schools, they must meet the long-standing critical needs that they have failed to address for decades.
Without proper PPE for teachers, school funding and investments to keep students safe, their rush to open schools will put many in harm’s way.
Bottom Line: During a pandemic, the safety of our schools should not be rushed or underinvested. Reopening of schools should be met with adequate investments in health and safety of teachers and students, with the consideration of science and safety measures in place.