What's in it...
It’s an expansive package that covers a lot of ground, from wanting to fund COVID-19 vaccination and testing access to addressing inequalities Americans face due to race, hunger, pay, and more. And a major tenet of this plan focuses specifically on reopening schools.
If passed, the gov would aim to spend $130 billion to help schools reopen safely. The money would help modify classrooms to make it easier for students to practice social distancing, improve ventilation, hire more janitors, provide PPE, ensure access to a school nurse, help increase transport capacity so students can get to school safely, and more. We're now almost a year into the COVID-19 pandemic and many parents, teachers, and kids are in dire need of change.
Let's start with the parents...
Working from home and monitoring online-schooling with kids is tough. More than 75% of parents with kids aged 8 to 12 say uncertainty around the current school year is causing them stress. And it’s been a particularly hard year for women – who have lost 5.3 million jobs during the pandemic. Nearly a million women who left the workforce are mothers – with Black, Hispanic, and single moms suffering the most.
It's become a situation that has left many parents in a financial bind. But on the other end of the spectrum, wealthier parents are taking advantage of resources available to them so their kids don't fall behind in school. About one in five upper-income parents has already hired someone to tutor their kids outside of school. Wealthier parents are also able to access new educational resources – like pod schools. Think: four to 10 students per teacher, no masks, no social distancing. They get extra prep on what they’re learning in class and some social interaction with their peers in the pod.
Many Americans don’t have the luxury of affording the cost of private tutors while trying to balance, work, parenting, schooling, and a pandemic. So it’s no surprise that a majority of parents are worried that their kids are falling behind in their studies.
Now, let's talk about the kids...
New data is showing how students are reacting to their new learning environments. A poll conducted by NBC News and Challenge Success found that students who spent time in the classroom reported lower rates of stress and worry than their online-only peers. While students who were exclusively remote felt more worried and suffered from higher rates of exhaustion, headaches, and insomnia.
Let's break that down even further:
63% of female students reported an increase in school-related stress, compared to 48% of male students
Also, 63% of Black and Hispanic/Latinx students reported the same increase, compared to 55% of white students
Another study found that students grades 3-8 fell behind in math, but Black, Hispanic and poorer students took the biggest hits
And one report found an estimated 3 million students (who are homeless, in foster care, or have a learning disability) appear to not be in school at all
Don't forget about the teachers...
Educators have been forced to make difficult choices throughout the pandemic. Many states did not include teachers in their first phases of vaccine eligibility. And often, teachers were forced to deal with a costly lack of the necessary protection (think: PPE).
A poll by the National Education Association showed that nearly one-third of educators were more likely to retire early or leave the profession because of the pandemic. An action that is further exacerbating a teacher shortage that existed before COVID-19 hit the US.
Inequality in the US education system continues to reveal itself as the pandemic rolls on. And as students, educators, and parents continue to deal with the fallout, they are all bonded by one distinct need: Relief.
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