Failing Our Kids

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

American life has been dramatically altered over the last several months as our nation has weathered the coronavirus pandemic. These changes are perhaps most profound to parents of school age children who have found their local elementary or middle school shuttered. On the educational side, distanced learning has been a massive struggle for all involved. Beyond the financial burdens of new laptops and smart devices, these challenges have been compounded for southern Missouri students and families due to the lack of reliable broadband connectivity throughout the region. If we want to ensure our children and their generation do not suffer long-term consequences from the coronavirus, then we must ensure that they return to school this fall.

This week, President Trump held a national dialogue at the White House about the importance of doing exactly that: reopening all of America’s schools in a safe way, because the President correctly understands that the longer these closures drag on, the more it negatively impacts America’s youth. Studies show that long-term learning losses from school closures are massive. In 2005, students in Pakistan missed just three months due to a catastrophic earthquake. Yet three years later, they were over 1.5 years behind on their education. That is unfortunately a similar reality our children face today. Even when they are allowed to go back to school, they are going to have to work incredibly hard to catch up on their studies. That’s why it is so important to get our kids back to school as quickly as possible. We cannot allow this current crisis to grow into a more disastrous situation.

Following the President’s example, I coauthored legislation—the Reopen Our Schools Act—to incentive school districts to provide in-person instruction in the fall by withholding federal support for school districts that fail to do so. Schools are tasked with providing our children with a quality education and if they can’t do that, then they should not receive any funding. Even colleges and universities—with their skyrocketing costs—think they can justify charging students the same astronomical price while refusing to offer students the option to attend their classes in person. It’s just not right. I also reinforced my support for the President’s position in a conversation with Governor Mike Parson and he too agreed. Since there is no universal solution for all schools across this country, safely reopening in southern Missouri will require authorizing local officials to act. It is my firm belief that the best government is the one closest to the people, that’s why I have worked tirelessly since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak to ensure our local leaders are empowered to make the best decision for their communities. They’re also in the best position to respond to the health and safety of their students.

Getting our children back to school is something everyone supports. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics believes it’s critical that our students get back to school as soon as possible. They put out a statement that says, “the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school.” I agree whole heartedly. Opening our schools this fall is paramount and the evidence shows it can be done safely. Nearly two dozen countries in Europe have already reopened their schools and have seen no noticeable increases in coronavirus cases. We owe it to our children and our nation’s future to put politics aside and focus on their safe return to their schools this fall. Failure to do so will set an entire generation up for failure. That’s not what our kids deserve, and that’s not the American way that I learned about in school.