“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!”
Like the Wizard of Oz, the Trump administration is blustering, threatening and bullying states to fully open schools in the fall. Like the small, frightened man behind the curtain, they're trying to further their own interests through the art of distraction, threatening to take away federal funding if schools don't reopen.
It's certainly true that until schools fully open, the economy will be hobbled; many parents depend on school to take care of their kids while they work. But health concerns should be a priority. If schools can't provide the safety measures necessary to protect students — and their families as well as staff — from COVID-19, they should not open. Already, major school districts are defying the president; Los Angeles and San Diego announced this week that school will be virtual in the fall, and New York City, the nation's largest school district, is leaning toward a limited school opening.
The Trump administration actually has little to no control over federal education funding. Locally, school districts receive little in the way of federal money, certainly not enough to cause financial hardship. Instead of threatening to cut off funding, the Trump administration should be doing the responsible thing and working with states to figure out how to safely open schools and providing the funding necessary to accomplish that goal. The American Association of School Administrators forecasts that safely opening schools could cost the average district with about 3,000 students more than $1.5 million. With much smaller school systems, costs to the Monomoy and Nauset districts would be less, perhaps around $500,000. That's still a big budget hit, especially as local towns face revenue shortfalls tied to the pandemic. States and local districts should do what's in the best interests of students and their families and ignore the politically-driven, ill-informed and irresponsible policies coming from the White House.