/ Letters / Tiffany’s war on public education continues

Tiffany’s war on public education continues

June 30, 2020

To the Editor:

I have to agree with a recent LTE writer, it does appear that our new Congressional representative Tom Tiffany is now also a scientist and medical doctor. Tom Tiffany has been in Washington less than four weeks and already he is trying to take decisions relating to our children’s health and welfare away from local control and putting it in the hands of the federal government. Interestingly, when he was here, Tiffany railed against Governor Evers for not allowing counties and cities to determine the response to the virus, but now that he is in D.C. he wants to force schools to open by specific dates, and wants to hold delivery of funding over their heads so they comply. Only, lest we forget, didn’t Tom have a record in Wisconsin of selectively removing certain local controls. Tom does try to have it both ways depending on how it serves his political interests.

The “Reopen Our Schools Act,” H.R. 7152, introduced by Reps. Jim Banks of Indiana and Tom Tiffany of Wisconsin, would prohibit 2020 federal funds from going to any school — from elementary schools through colleges and universities — that did not reopen for in-person learning by Sept. 8. Or as Tiffany said “a carrot and stick approach.” The complete text of the bill is still not available, but a bare bones “bulleted” press release lays out specific criteria: 

• Schools must provide a plan to reopen safely per their normal operations pre-coronavirus

• Only in-person classes count as re-opening

• Maximum liability protection for schools is guaranteed, and 

• The Secretary of Education can create a waiver process at her discretion. 

However, to hamstring school administrations the bill deems to disallow remediations or modifications to school sites and it does not indicate if legislation would provide any funding to help schools to reopen safely. I see the stick approach, but wonder were the carrot comes in. And where is Tiffany with solutions to safely open schools?

According to the American Federation of Teachers: “Schools have to assess the level of safety not only for the students, but for the people who work within the school building such as teachers, aides, custodians, and others who may be at high risk for infection. If you follow the guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — the cost of reopening schools across the nation safely could range anywhere from $25 billion to $130 billion.” It looks more and more like Tiffany’s bill is just another unfunded federal government mandate.

Also, most school districts receive only about 10% of their funding from the federal government, the bulk of moneys for education come from local and state government. Also, the Federal Government does not directly fund schools. It provides grants and supplemental funding to special programs like People with Disabilities, Head start, IDEA Special Education State Grants, Title 3 non English speakers, Title 1 economically disadvantaged, etc. Yet, Tiffany wants to deny help for the Americans who need it the most.

Why doesn’t the federal government come up with a nationwide plan for schools to follow for a safe reopening? Well, because presently there is no way to safely put 30 kids in a classroom six feet apart from each other. Then we have those students who could be asymptomatic or those students who are showing some symptoms, but have less than responsible parents who send them to school anyway. Those students then come home and get their parents and grandparents sick. Hell, you can’t even get adults to wear a simple mask, just how would you get kids to social distance and wear masks? At present there is a resurgence of this highly contagious virus spreading around the country for which we have we have no vaccine or effective treatment. But, somehow schools are supposed to figure out how to open safely when the people who run the world economy can’t figure out what to do? The truth is the only people Republicans care about are the ones who have the means to send their kids to private school. Betcha, Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos will “create a waiver process at her discretion” for the privileged few.

But then, as was pointed out, this could be just another “look at me” moment, or “see, I’m working hard for you” moment. Why? Well, Jim Banks (IN) sponsor of the bill and Tom Tiffany (WI) co-sponsor introduced the bill H.R. 7152 on June 11, 2020, and subsequently it was referred to the House Committee on Education and Labor and currently has no other co-sponsors. We can only hope it will die in committee or die the death of amendments.

Lastly, Banks and Tiffany try to justify forcing your children to be guinea pigs with half-truths, specious claims and facts without scientific validation. Such as children are at a relatively very low risk of becoming infected by coronavirus, remote learning does not work, we can take necessary precautions and other countries are finding a way to get their kids back in the classroom.

Not exactly! Two new studies offer compelling evidence that children can transmit the virus. Neither proved it, but the evidence was strong enough to suggest that schools should be kept closed for now. Don’t tell Secretary of Education DeVos remote learning doesn’t work. “We’ll take necessary precautions.” First, who is the “we” and second their bill deems to disallow remediations or modifications to school sites precluding precautionary remediations or modifications. As for other countries finding a way to get their kids back in the classroom, however the steps are tentative; most schools are resuming with reduced class sizes, shortened school days, modified seating, remedial area sanitizing procedures and extra hand-washing, etc. Also it is still too early and statistics too slim to draw any conclusions.

If Tiffany feels so brave as to put students and teachers (not to mention all their families) at risk, he should volunteer to work in the schools. Easy to put other people and their children at risk of dying or maybe in his mind they are just acceptable collateral casualties.

John Kocovsky




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