Public/Global Health

Senate Democrats demand coronavirus plan from DeVos

Stefani Reynolds

Dozens of Senate Democrats, led by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), are demanding Education Secretary Betsy Devos provide concrete guidance for school districts and higher education institutions to deal with the coronavirus as concerns over the spreading illness mount.

“Increasing numbers of K-12 schools and institutions of higher education (IHEs) are considering school closures in order to mitigate the spread of the virus,” the senators wrote in a letter to DeVos. 

“We urge the U.S. Department of Education to consider several serious issues related to school closure as it works with school districts, state education agencies, educators, and institutions of higher education, as well as with the President’s Task Force and public health officials,” they continued.

The senators cited that sizable schools districts in Seattle and San Antonio have already closed down and that a growing list of universities and colleges, such as the University of Washington and Stanford, have elected to move classes online instead of having them in-person.

The lawmakers also expressed concern over the negative effects that K-12 school closings could have “on certain students and families.”

“In K-12 schools, many families rely on the Federal School Lunch Program and may experience food insecurity if they can no longer access meals at school,” they explained.

“Few school districts have experience providing wide-scale educational services online for all students, and not all families have access to home computers and high-speed internet to take advantage of such online options. Online learning cannot substitute for a number of services provided in the school setting, and it raises particular challenges to ensuring equity in access to education for all students,” they added.

The Senate Democrats ask DeVos to provide answers to more than a dozen questions concerning coronavirus and the effect it might have on various federal education policies, including financial aid for college students and how the department will offer assistance to K-12 students and their families that need it.

Their letter asked DeVos to give her answers by March 24.

Tags Betsy DeVos Betsy DeVos Coronavirus Patty Murray public schools Senate Health

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