The school year is underway across our state, and over and over I hear the same thing from parents, students, teachers, and community leaders: people feel like they’ve been abandoned. And they’re right.
Senate Leader McConnell and President Trump have left parents, students, and teachers to fend for themselves in the middle of a national crisis.
School districts don’t have clear guidance from the federal government on when and how it’s safe to open schools in person. They don’t have the resources needed to either invest in new technology, professional development, or additional staff for virtual learning. And they don’t have the funds to purchase new safety equipment or cleaning supplies, or the resources to secure extra space for social distancing or outdoor learning.
Parents are under unbearable stress. Teachers are doing their best, while worried for their own health and worried about their students. And the achievement gap is getting worse because of this pandemic.
The federal government could be doing so much more to support schools and families. The House passed a bill almost four months ago that would have given Ohio schools and local governments the dedicated resources they need to prepare for the school year.
We need to pass a real relief bill that includes that funding – and that gives Ohio communities the flexibility they need to respond to local conditions. Leader McConnell’s bill wasn’t a real plan at all – it tied support for K-12 education to in-person education. Schools should be able to base their decisions on science and the best public health expertise, not President Trump’s and Leader McConnell’s political agenda. And their plan furthered Secretary of Education, Betsy Devos’ school privatization plan that would undermine public education.
Their plan also didn’t have any funding for Ohio communities at all. We know what’s happening to local budgets and Ohio’s state budget – the bottom is falling out.
We also know the challenges that caregivers are facing – and that doesn’t just include parents. We know how many grandparents and other relatives are caring for children in Ohio. In fact, Sunday, September 12 was National Grandparents Day and the month of September is Kinship Caregiver Awareness Month.
They’re facing unique challenges this school year that are made worse by Republicans’ failure to pass a relief bill. That’s why I introduced the Child Welfare Emergency Assistance Act to provide specific emergency aid to kinship caregivers in Ohio.
Ohio families, young people, educators, and communities should not be forced to fend for themselves in a crisis. Leader McConnell and President Trump need to let us do our jobs, and pass a real relief bill that meets this moment.
Democrat Sherrod Brown represents Ohio in the U.S. Senate.