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US Opinions | Virginia’s leaders are failing our children

15:15  29 october  2020
15:15  29 october  2020 Source:   washingtonpost.com

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Rory Cooper is a parent of three Fairfax County elementary school students and the former communications director for former majority leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.).

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Hundreds of thousands of students in Virginia are unable to receive an adequate education. Students are sitting in kitchens watching subpar virtual learning four days a week while overstressed parents do their best to support and supervise them. But you wouldn’t know it if you only listened to Virginia’s elected officials, who are entirely ignoring the crisis.

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It’s cowardly and deserves contempt.

This absence of leadership is heavily felt here in Northern Virginia. Fairfax County is one of the largest, most well-funded school systems in the nation. Nearly all public students are prohibited from attending school, while affluent neighbors in the same communities flee to private schools and attend five days a week without incident, creating an economic inequality gap that is unprecedented.

Since the school year began, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) has issued hundreds of news releases. He has celebrated gourmet peanut butter and wine month. He has not once discussed the plight of Virginia students without an in-person education. Not once.

Fairfax County Chairman Jeffrey McKay (D) has tweeted hundreds of times in that same span. He has hit on the subjects of voting, removing statues and his favorite parks. Not once has he addressed the kids who are suffering at home. Not once.

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Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D), who grew up in Northern Virginia, is completely missing in action from this issue or any other, having not even updated his website since 2019.

Meanwhile, the Fairfax teacher’s union has declared that schools should remain closed until at least August 2021. That would make 17 months of school closings. It demands that the area have 14 days of zero coronavirus spread before reopening. That is not only lofty, but it also is impossible without a universally accessible vaccine. The union simply does not want the schools to reopen, and nobody is challenging it.

The Fairfax School County Board finally decided to consider returning kindergartners, first- and second-graders to the classroom later this year, but some teachers are organizing strikes and sit-ins. The school system already began bringing back pre-K special-needs students only, and even that caused an uproar with the union.

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So the prospect of this proposed in-classroom instruction feels remote despite parents’ overwhelming supporting return to school or hybrid approaches by overwhelming majorities. And if your child is older than a second-grader, the outlook of your child seeing the inside of a school before the leaves change color again seems even more unlikely.

Students with learning disabilities, such as an ADHD child unable to engage with a laptop alone for five hours a day, are not receiving any special dispensations as required by law and are simply left to wait it out with their classmates.

The superintendent in Fairfax, Scott Braband, knows the damage that is being caused to students, but he is politically without an ally. So, he announced distant dates for a return and waits for the union and other board members to say no. Which is why a coalition of parents has begun recall efforts of school board members Laura Jane Cohen and Elaine Tholen to take back some control.

As some education allies will profess, teachers are not a monolithic group. When surveyed earlier in the year, half wanted to return to in-person instruction. Courageous teachers exist across this nation in systems and child-care centers that are operating in-person five days a week or in the private schools just down the road. But this internal conflict is not represented by their unions who are calling the shots.

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Virginians only need look at other states that have managed not only hybrid returns but full re-openings in similarly impacted areas. It merely requires following the science and having the personnel to tackle difficult and challenging issues. Instead, we have a group of Virginia leaders who are willing to ask children to sacrifice on their behalf so they can avoid any discomfort.

People disagree about the risk involved. There have been few documented incidents where schools have opened elsewhere, and pediatric experts profess that there is more damage to the children being kept out of school than the alternative, especially those at-risk. But even if we disagree, let’s at least debate it rather than ignore the kids entirely.

Schools cannot remain the only part of society we keep crippled. Without any changes in policy or leadership, it’s time Virginians take a closer look at school choice and the ability for their property tax dollars to follow students rather than schools who are simply unwilling to give them a return on their investment. And remember, local elections matter too.

Read more:

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usr: 2
This is interesting!