House GOP minority leader Kevin McCarthy takes to USA Today to sell the Republican priority of legal immunity to COVID-19 lawsuits for businesses by using America's schoolchildren as bargaining chips.
The economic shutdown has transformed many American households into makeshift day cares, middle school classrooms and summer camps. Parents have had to take on the roles of teachers and coaches while trying to manage full-time jobs. Now, as we look to reopen parts of the economy, those same parents are facing limited to zero options for child care.
Under COVID-19 orders, 50% of providers recently surveyed reported their center was completely closed, and most of the providers who did remain open were operating at less than 25% capacity. And 1 in 3 jobs in child day care centers went away, likely for good. Additionally, many schools will reopen this fall with staggered or part-time schedules and at least 60 private schools have permanently closed, displacing more than 8,000 students.
We now see a looming crisis for schools and child care. If it's left unaddressed, it will exacerbate the economic crisis caused by the pandemic by preventing parents across the country from returning to work, and continue to widen the socioeconomic gap.
There is an important role for Congress to play in alleviating the stress on our families. We should begin by addressing the shortage of child care options by working to keep existing providers in business and encouraging new child care providers, including home-based providers, to start up in as safe and healthy a way as possible. Any additional financial relief considered by Congress to businesses to aid in the economic recovery should prioritize child care providers and schools.
Small home-based providers should be treated like start-ups and given small business support, including access to regional networks, to help improve quality and access to group purchasing power. This will also help providers with recruitment and professional development of the workforce, for both new and returning employees. Many of these businesses are owner-operated, women and minority owned businesses. Helping them launch and setting them up for success could be a win-win in aiding the recovery.
Again, this is exactly what Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats have been proposing for over two months now, and Senate Republicans have been blocking for over two months now. So what's the catch?
Next paragraph, please.
A part of helping schools and child care centers confidently reopen will involve providing liability protections against frivolous lawsuits. COVID-19 related lawsuits against businesses (including child care providers as well as K-12 schools), when good-faith efforts to follow best health practices and recommendations are followed, are an existential threat to companies large and small.
K-12 schools across the country have asked Congress to provide meaningful, targeted protection from frivolous claims and lawsuits resulting from possible exposure to the coronavirus on school facilities and property. A wave of such lawsuits threatens to prevent child care providers and schools from reopening, which would undermine the economic and social recovery of our country.
And there it is.
Republicans are already making plans to force schools to reopen this fall regardless of safety. Florida is already forcing all schools to reopen next month and Texas is doing the same thing. Nationally, the Trump regime says it will not allow public schools to reopen on partial or staggered schedules, and that distance learning will not be accepted.
The CDC's guidance for schools recommends that students and teachers wear masks “as feasible,” spread out desks, stagger schedules, eat meals in classrooms instead of the cafeteria, and add physical barriers between bathroom sinks.
Some schools have announced plans to bring students back for only a few days a week, an option that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Tuesday said was unacceptable.
“It’s clear that our nations schools must fully reopen and fully operate this school year. Anything short of that robs students, not to mention taxpayers, of their future,” DeVos said.
During a call with governors, DeVos slammed plans by Virginia's Fairfax County Public Schools to have families decide between fully remote instruction or two days a week at school. “A choice of two days per week in the classroom is not a choice at all," DeVos said, according to audio of the call obtained by The Associated Press.
DeVos also criticized many schools' attempts at distance education after the pandemic prompted them to move classes online last spring. She said she was disappointed in schools that “didn’t figure out how to serve students or who just gave up and didn’t try.”
The same thing can’t happen again this fall, she said, urging governors to play a role in getting schools to reopen.
They gave up because of school funding cuts across the board by Republicans. By the way, Cincinnati plans to open schools in the fall on a staggered schedule. Mayor Cranley says he disagrees with the plan and says schools have no choice but to open as normal.
Finally, Donald Trump made it clear today that he plans to cut all federal funding for any school district, college, or university that doesn't open this fall.
Trump on Wednesday morning tweeted, "In Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and many other countries, SCHOOLS ARE OPEN WITH NO PROBLEMS. The Dems think it would be bad for them politically if U.S. schools open before the November Election, but is important for the children & families. May cut off funding if not open!"
On Tuesday night, DeVos said she is “very seriously” looking at withholding federal funds from schools that don't open their doors this fall.
“Kids have got to continue learning,” she told Fox News’ Tucker Carlson during an interview late Tuesday. “Schools have got to open up, there has got to be concerted effort to address the needs of all kids and adults who are fear mongering and making excuses simply have got to stop doing it and turn their attention on what is right for students and for their families.”
Federal funding for K-12 schools includes billions for low-income schools and special education. But education leaders immediately questioned how the administration would propose to hold back those funds or others.
"To be clear: there is no mechanism by which they can decide to magically withhold funding without Congressional authorization," tweeted Sasha Pudelski, advocacy director for AASA, The School Superintendents Association.
This is going to be the big fight over the next several weeks across the country, and it's going to play out against a backdrop of a massive spike in cases and very soon a massive spike in COVID-19 deaths. Kids are going to be Republican pawns, put in the direct path of a pandemic that will kill thousands and cripple tens, maybe hundreds of thousands more. And teachers, educators, and school staff? When they start dropping dead in classrooms?
What then? "Find a way to open as normal or lose all funding, you have six weeks."
Keep an eye on this. The future of public education in America is now very much in doubt.
And that's exactly what Republicans want.
The end of public education.