On Capitol Hill Friday, Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise voiced his concern for virtual-only school this fall, saying that states have the money to make in-classroom learning happen safely.
Scalise was the ranking Republican at a House hearing on the need for a national plan to contain the coronavirus. Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Dr. Robert Redfield, Director of the Centers for Disease Control, both testified.
Scalise pushed both health experts for answers on how to get children in the classroom and soon.
“The American Academy of Pediatrics gave great guidance on how to open school, and went further and talked about the damage to children when you don’t reopen schools. So much damage being done to our children,” said Rep. Scalise.
He says billions of dollars from the CARES act are still available in every state. School districts, he says, should be receiving money from their states to buy protective equipment for schools immediately.
“There’s money available, by the way, still available at every state, for sanitizer, for masks, for all the things you’d need to safety reopen. It’s not about money, it’s about the will. The desire to do it,” he said.
But in his home state, teachers are rallying to keep children out of the classroom until it’s safe. In Jefferson Parish, in-person learning is set to begin August 12.
Teachers and the Jefferson Federation of Teachers have been a loud voice against the district’s choice not to implement 100% virtual learning.
Other districts, including NOLA Public Schools, have chosen they’ll be online-only until at least Labor Day.
But there’s a very different view from Capitol Hill, where Scalise, and CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield worry nutrition, mental health services, and child abuse screenings will be overlooked.
“You can imagine what it must be like to be one of those recurrently-abused children that has sort of lost their safety nets,” said Dr. Redfield.
The American Federation of Teachers, the nation’s second-largest teachers union, has said it will support any local chapter that choose to strike over reopening plans.