This paper aims to analyze the involvement of political parties and leaders in the reopening of schools during the COVID-19 pandemic. Discussions and analysis are based on the Democrats’ and Republicans’ concerns about reopening schools and the CDC guidelines for health and safety in schools. The paper analyses different scenarios where politics influence matters concerning education and promoting the parties’ popularity. Issues discussed include government involvement in financing the reopening of schools, concerns about the involvement of teachers’ unions in drafting health guidelines, and reopening schools before elections in the state. All issues discussed are analyzed in the political context of the government’s involvement, from both the administrative and opposition parties.
Research on the COVID-19 pandemic has been ongoing to determine safety and prevention measures for the general public. In the beginning, researchers could not determine the properties of the covid pandemic and termed it as a respiratory disease that could affect children the most. However, numerous study results show that children and adolescents have the least risk of contracting the virus. Hence preventive measures could be put in place to guide the education system in resuming physical classes. Following the demand to reopen schools, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in collaboration with the teacher’s union, came up with new guidelines for school reopening, including preventive and safety measures against covid-19. Initially, CDC had the overall obligation of drafting and implementing the health guidelines but later decided to collaborate with other educational organizations like the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).
However, the collaboration of the teacher’s union and CDC in creating school reopening guidelines has brought political uproars and debates challenging the practicality of the given guidelines regarding cost-effectiveness and integral values. Democrats and Republicans have made the reopening of schools during the Covid pandemic a political concern, with opposers and supporters of the guidelines from both sides. This paper analyses cases of political involvement in the education sector’s policy and decision-making and its implications in the education system regarding the CDC’s partnership with the teacher’s union in proposing and creating school reopening guidelines.
Republicans Demand for School’s Reopening Before Fall 2020
Republicans advocated for reopening schools in September 2020 following election campaigns to re-elect the former president, Donald Trump. According to Trump, reopening schools allows for better education and normalcy for working parents going back to work which encourages economic growth (King et al., 2020). Aside from benefiting the state economically and socially, the move to reopen schools could affect their re-election campaigns and success on the ballot. Trump’s pressure on institutions governing the education sector to reopen schools before elections is political and does not regard the welfare of students and teachers. Former President Donald Trump threatens to stop funding the federal republic if schools delay in reopening. The former president goes ahead to give leniency to local schools that were unable to open due to limited resources for safety and preventing the spread of COVID-19.
If all schools are reopened under the same conditions, there would be no need for discrimination against well-equipped schools and those with limited resources. The Republican move is more of a downplay in gaining votes than a sincere solution to safety and normal education. All in all, Trump’s threats to withhold federal funds from supporting the education system are baseless because schools receive funding through Congress, where Trump has no authority. His threats to withhold federal funding to schools come when the school needs more money to cover the cost of CDCs guideline requirements. For example, schools need more funds to cater to sanitation, and safety equipment, and creating prevention measures, like social distancing, requires additional space in students learning and interactive facilities (Rabin & Rauh, 2020).
The former president claims the impractical guidelines are a move by Democrats to keep schools closed to campaign against him (King et al., 2020). With the rising demand for schools reopening from parents, teachers, and education agencies, politicians took advantage of the demand as a tool for the election campaign. Although the CDC’s director insists that the guidelines are not mandatory in opening schools, politicians have already used it as a rationale in their election campaigns. While republicans advocate for school reopening to ease the burden of parents and vulnerable students, democrats are opposed to the reopening as it contributes points to the opposition side.
Republicans Question Teacher’s Union Collaboration With CDC
Currently, the Republicans are raising concerns on the extent of teachers’ union involvement in making schools reopening guidelines. Reopening guidelines entail health practices in preventing the acquisition and spread of the COVID-19 virus, which is mostly scientific. The involvement of the teacher’s union raises concerns about the effectiveness of the health practices because the union does not handle matters on health. According to republicans, AFT is not responsible for drafting guidelines that affect the health of the whole state (Camera, 2021). Its involvement is seen as promoting the selfish interests of politicians from the opposition whose concern is not on the welfare of the state but on gaining public support for involvement. In a letter to the CDC, republicans criticized the health agency for conspiring with politicians in health matters which is a breach of integrity in the health sector (Ingraham & Arroyo, 2020).
One can argue in support of the Republicans that the CDC is fully capable of observing the education system, school structure, and curriculum to make the best health decisions concerning learning in a safe environment (Camera, 2021). However, in the raging demand for answers by republicans, the white house and health agencies stood on the defensive side, claiming the significance of the teacher’s union in drafting the school reopening guidelines. As health practices meant for the education system, the teachers union has a right to participate in the drafting and decision-making process because it concerns their area (Andion et al., 2017). However, despite the defensive statements, republicans are still skeptical of the teacher’s union involvement, arguing that it is a tactic to delay the reopening of schools from the opposition party.
AFT’s president, Randi Weingarten, presented the organization’s defense, demonstrating full support for school reopening under the new state administration, which does not criticize efforts to ensure safety for schools reopening like the former administration (Camera, 2021). The union’s president future states that the same guidelines, when presented to the former government, were never supported and gave sincere thanks to the democrat’s administration for allowing their participation and supporting the guidelines. Politically, the AFT’s president seems to support democrats and criticizes republicans for undermining and questioning efforts from organizations trying to create a healthy environment.
Although the claims may seem baseless, they could hold substance considering the benefits that democrats get from the teacher’s union as a significant political donor. General public reactions to this matter are indifferent to either political party. According to parents, all politicians are the same, raising concerns that do not affect them and later putting them under the rug once they achieve their purpose. Most citizens also criticized politicians, especially the republicans, for creating attention and swaying public opinion regarding their children’s health and safety at schools.
Government Funding for Reopening of Schools
After debates on whether schools should be reopened or not, both republicans and democrats agreed on their different ways for the schools to finally reopen. Despite the agreement, both political sides came up with different drafted proposals for funding the schools to achieve health requirements (Meckler & Werner, 2020). Funding proposals include budgets for more classrooms and learning facilities, buses, sanitation, and the hiring of an extra workforce in the health and education sector. While Republicans complain about the impracticality and too expensive requirements, democrats suggest that schools need more funding to necessitate safety measures and prevent the acquisition and spread of COVID-19 (Meckler & Werner, 2020). Since Democrats took over the state’s administration, there is the hope of better and adequate facilities to ensure the safety health guidelines are practiced.
Democrats are funding schools reopening with over $130 billion (Erwin et al., 2021), which is budgeted to implement concerns on social distancing, purchasing safety equipment, and expanding facilities for efficient ventilation. Apart from ensuring safety and protective measures, schools are also demanding compensation for the lost time, which needs recovery and class extensions. Despite the demands from schools, republicans view the democrat’ budget as overspending and wastage of resources. However, some education groups claim that all funds received had been budgeted for; therefore, the republican claim of extra funding is baseless.
Even though political parties use education reforms and policies to gain popularity and votes, they perform the important task of controlling issues that may affect the education system. The public’s interest should come first before political ambitions. Therefore, opposition parties help control the ruling administration in case of misconduct or breach of integral values. COVID-19 has had significant effects on the education sector since its development as academic institutions were forced to close down to prevent the spreading of the pandemic. If not for government intervention, most students could still be at home due to limited resources for attending school physically.
Government involvement ensures equity for all students and considers the vulnerable and students from low-income families. Funding from the government also positively impacts the academic sector since most public schools rely on it to sustain their students and teachers in enabling quality education. If the government did not have opposition, all decisions could not be determined and analyzed as good or bad. For efficient decision-making, two sides of a case must be examined and weighed to determine which one carries the most substantial weight. Republicans may oppose most of the Democrats’ ideas, but all in all, it may be a strategy of challenging the government to ensure they keep their promises and create a stable education system.
On the other hand, Democrats’ opposition to reopening schools could have substantial reasons that are not political. Suppose the safety and prevention measures do not suppress the pandemic; it could lead to the loss of many lives from students, teachers, and parents. As much as Republicans want to ease parents’ and students’ difficulties and access to quality education, the move could be fatal without careful consideration. Moreover, Trump’s decision to reopen schools came when COVID-19 was still surging in many parts of the state; therefore, safety and preventive guidelines were not guaranteed to risk exposure to the virus in the name of political ambitions.
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