Trish: Taxpayers Should Demand School Refunds

As more schools refuse to open their doors this Fall, it’s increasingly clear these closures are being motivated in part…by politics. DC, for example, is the least transparent choosing to resume school virtually for its Fall semester, through November 6th, conveniently three days after our nation’s 2020 elections.

While there’s a lot of hand-ringing over whether or not to return to school, no one seems to be accurately considering the long term ramifications for our kids, the very students that effected so negatively by these bureaucratic actions.

Elected officials governing communities in New York, DC, Massachusetts and Florida, are proving they will, rather easily, fold to powerful union demands. These actions will have long term implications for our nation’s youth, as well as our economy, as parents struggle to return to work and are confronted with the reality that, if they do, they’re kids would be left at home alone, trying to attend a zoom class while still in kindergarten.

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I’ll tell you this: None of this is good. We ought to be smarter than this. Educators ought to be smarter than this.

There are consequences to a country intent on depriving a generation of children the opportunities they need to grow and to learn?

The groups most affected by the closures are the same groups that the left is purportedly trying to help. Poor urban communities, most often comprised of minorities, are the school systems seeing closures. This, effectively, is a socio economic penalty with long lasting effects. We should be doing everything possible to give as many students as possible a shot at the best education so they have the opportunity to realize the American dream. And, yet, these communities are the ones first to shutter their doors?

Poor students don’t have the luxury of being able to attend a private school where a community of parents gets to decide whether or not to stay open, instead of a teachers’ union. In most cases, these children aren’t offered any other alternative. And, yet…their parents, the taxpayers, are still footing the bill.

As taxpayers – we pay for school through property and income taxes. So, if a school refuses to open and all the kids get is a few work sheets each week, or a group lecture over Zoom (as we saw this Spring) taxpayers ought to get a refund or a tax credit that they can, in turn, apply as a voucher toward a private school that actually is open, should they so desire. Or, hey, how about a payment, or a credit, to a family that decides to leave one parents home to educate a child full-time? Or, perhaps even, a credit so that a family can hire a tutor to ensure a continuation in their child’s education.

Teachers, communities, and taxpayers need to think more proactively about the students themselves.

Granted, many teachers’ unions insist members cannot go back into school for fear they’ll be exposed to Covid…and in many cases, those fears are warranted. If a teacher, administrator, or any other employee of the school is part of a high risk group…or lives with someone considered high risk, then, that person should most definitely be afforded an opportunity to repurpose their job and work from home. As a society, we must be supportive of that. However, for healthier individuals to argue against finding a way through this…for them to argue against solutions, that is a problem.

Meanwhile, it’s interesting that local businesses can, for the most part, figure out how to operate amid a pandemic, yet our nation’s schools…the entities that are guarding, guiding, are nurturing our most precious natural resource, our youth, cannot determine solutions? Consider that at businesses across the country, we see American ingenuity and creativity at play. As a result, you’ll see plexi-glass at checkout counters in grocery stores, restaurants that are opening their dining rooms onto the sidewalks – and reduced capacity, shields and other changes at hair salons. American business owners – whether it’s your local farmers market or Walmart or Apple (which has many shops open for appointment only) are figuring it out, even taking customers’ temperatures at Apple, for example.

American business is figuring it out. So, why can’t our public schools?

One word: Bureaucracy.

School districts are controlled by unions. As such, there are no rewards nor incentives for going back to school…only risks. Public schools are monopoly enterprises in each of their respective communities. Thus, while the rest of the world is returning to work, the teachers’ union in Pittsburgh says teachers are “uncomfortable” with it. Meanwhile, Massachusetts’ teachers are pushing, successfully, to start two weeks later so they can “get prepared” (dare we ask what were they doing all summer? They were still getting paid, right?) And, in New York, where Bill deBalsio is proposing that school be in session for 2-3 days per week, many teachers are fighting to say they won’t go back. Of course, everyone still wants to be paid.

It’s irresponsible. We should be able to expect more from the people teaching our kids.

Nonetheless, public school education is a government run monopoly. Without capitalist forces to act as incentives, there’s not the same kind of will to be back in action like what we see in American business.

Bottomline: if a local restaurant owner can find a way to reopen, shouldn’t our schools? We ought to be sharing ideas that can work: Outside classes, staggered classes, shorter days even. I would hope we have enough smart people in our school districts so as to provide a real solution that works for our kids. Alternatively, we risk a lost generation of kids – and we’ll have no one to blame but the adults currently in charge.

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