NYT editorial board calls for the reopening of schools with help from federal government's 'checkbook'

NYT editorial board calls for the reopening of schools with help from federal government's 'checkbook'
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The New York Times editorial board is calling for schools to reopen in the fall, with the caveat that school systems need the federal government to open its checkbook to make it work. 

In an editorial published Saturday, the board advocated for children to return to the classrooms, saying that they “need food and friendships; books and basketball courts; time away from family and a safe place to spend it.”

The board said that in order maximize in-person instruction, "the federal government must open its checkbook," citing an estimate from the School Superintendents Association that found necessary protective measures would cost an average of about $1.8 million per school district across the U.S. 

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The reopening of schools has been a hotly contested topic in recent days as the coronavirus rages on in the country and poses risks to groups who gather indoors.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated their guidance for schools on how to reopen safely, but  President TrumpDonald John TrumpDeWine tests negative for coronavirus a second time Several GOP lawmakers express concern over Trump executive orders Beirut aftermath poses test for US aid to frustrating ally MORE pushed back on the recommendations, calling the guidelines "very tough & expensive."

"President Trump could set an example by wearing a mask, and by urging states to require masks. He could work to expand testing. He could work to get money to schools," the board wrote. 

"Instead, Mr. Trump has sent tweets, demanding in ALL CAPS that schools reopen — and threatening to cut off existing federal funding."

The Trump administration this week took an aggressive stance reopening schools in the fall, threatening to cut schools' federal funding if they fail to do so. Public schools, however, rely on local funds for the majority of their operations. 

The board noted that moving learning online puts low-income students — who already face obstacles in education — at a disadvantage because they are more likely to lack consistent access to technology at home.  

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“The limits of virtual classrooms were on painful display this spring,” the board wrote. “While some students thrived, or at least continued to learn, others faded away.”

Educational leaders including those at the prominent American Federation of Teachers union have called for Senate Republicans to approve additional federal funding to ensure that both teachers and students are safe from COVID-19 in schools. 

The House passed the HEROES Act, another massive coronavirus stimulus bill in May that includes some funding for public schools, but Senate Republicans have not yet considered additional stimulus legislation.

The also board urged Trump to do what he can under his authority to push for additional school funding. 

At the end of the op-ed, the board also pointed out that schools provide childcare for families, some of whom may be essential workers, citing an estimate from the consulting firm McKinsey, that found 27 million American workers require the assistance of child care. 

“Parents need public schools, too,” they wrote. “They need help raising their children, and they need to work.”