Paul L. Caron

Friday, August 7, 2020

NY Times: The U.S. Is Pursuing The Worst Possible COVID-19 Education Policy, Forcing Young Children Online While Risking On-Ground Classes For College Students

New York Times:  The United States Is Reopening Many of the Wrong Schools, by Susan Dynarski (Michigan):

When it is safe enough to return to school, young children would benefit the most. Yet financial pressures are pushing colleges to reopen most rapidly, an economist says.

With coronavirus cases spiking in dozens of states, the prospect of anything resembling a normal school year is fading fast.

Schools can’t safely reopen if infections are exploding in the communities they serve.

But in regions where the pandemic appears to be under control, it is most important to get the youngest children back into school buildings, to stop the alarming slide in their learning. Older students, especially those in college, are better equipped to cope with the difficulties of online education.

That is the broad consensus among experts on back-to-school priorities. But, as things stand now, much of the United States is preparing to do exactly the opposite.

In many towns, college students are more likely than kindergartners to return to school for in-person instruction. An example is my home of Ann Arbor, Mich., where schoolchildren will be learning completely online and university students will be attending at least some classes in person. ...

For colleges, competition for tuition dollars is pushing them to take outsize risks to get students back on campus, while for public school districts, inadequate funding — combined with the failure of government to curb the coronavirus — is keeping them from getting children safely back into school buildings. ...

If competition for students is preventing many colleges from making choices that would benefit the public, constrained public revenue streams are behind the existential challenge for schools that educate younger students.

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Prof. Dynarski makes a good point. A rational governmental policy would cover the costs of empty college dorm rooms and the additional costs of producing good online content to allow universities to operate online only, while subsidizing as well the higher costs of providing K-6 education in the safest possible small group setting. (7-12 presents the most challenging set of problems).

Posted by: Ted Seto | Aug 7, 2020 8:17:31 AM