The year 2020 has been arduous on us all, but public schools have taken the brunt of the pandemic. We were already in an education system that disproportionately undermines disenfranchised students, but, now, with the pandemic, there is even more discrepancy. Schools are more than just places to get an education: they provide food for kids that might not otherwise be able to eat; they provide childcare for children whose parents work; and they can provide kids a safe space and countless other amenities. Schools have become a necessary place in our society, and we cannot replicate them on a screen.
Most schools are already underfunded. They can’t pay teachers enough, buy new textbooks, and countless other things. Now all public schools are expected to find the money to provide a safe learning environment from the coronavirus. This means schools need to install better ventilation, buy the proper cleaning supplies, acquire hand sanitizer, purchase PPE, train teachers on the “new normal” style of teaching, and buy new technology to ensure students at home can receive an education. All these necessary adjustments can cost more than a million dollars. The number of necessary changes leaves many schools unable to afford to reopen.
The only alternative option is an online school. Not only is online school hard to sit through, especially for younger students, it is also not accessible to many low-income students. A large portion of people do not have wifi access, nor do they have a place to go to access it. In my home state, Washington, libraries are closed, which is one of the only places people can access free wifi. Many districts have tried to get wifi to all their students, but this goal is challenging due to how big districts are, while poor districts can’t afford to do this. Suppose a student lives in an impoverished school district. They automatically have less money because funding for schools comes from the taxes in that area. America faces a similar problem of getting the right technology to students who suffer from the same accessible wifi problems.
Additionally, we see teachers leaving their position to start teaching “pods.” A pod can look different in different situations, but it is essentially when a parent pays a teacher to come to their home to teach a small group of students. These pods create a bubble of students who can socialize with a small group of their peers, and they are also beneficial for a teacher because they can be paid more, have more freedom in what they teach, and it can be a safer environment. This sounds like a win-win situation, right? Unfortunately, this is only an option for families that can afford to pay for a teacher. This means that many students who are better off will gain a better education in the long run, and once again, low-income students are being left in the dust.
These are only a few examples of the problems American education is facing today, and there are numerous more. The American school system was already problematic because of the dependency we have on them. Americans expect schools to feed, socialize, educate, and babysit their children. American’s dependency on schools is now even more problematic because America does not have the infrastructure to maintain this system in a pandemic. I know that the after-effects of this pandemic education will be felt for years to come, as it exacerbates the already existing inequality.