The Tennessee Department of Education issued a news release yesterday asking for participation in a survey related to lost instructional time during the coronavirus scare and the stimulus package recently passed by Congress. When I opened the survey and saw one of the questions asking that parents choose one of mandatory summer school, optional summer school, an extended school year, extended school days, or “other” as the best option to make up missed “learning time,” I was shocked.
Teachers, students and parents have worked hard to ensure that “learning time” hasn’t stopped. And these students are already being asked to sacrifice a lot. And now you want to float the idea of taking their summer? It’s frankly infuriating. And it reeks of yet another attempt to throw students and teachers under the bus in an effort to get the federal government to send more money down the pipes, which brings up another issue entirely. Education in America is supposed to be state-controlled. It’s time for Congress to stop offering free money as a way to wade into education policies at the state and local levels.
The last thing these students need is summer school. The most important thing they need is normalcy. Everybody is ready for this era of “social distancing” to be over so we can get our lives back to normal, and our kids need to hang out with their friends, go on family vacations, and just relax — not have their lives, already turned upside-down, even more upended as they face the prospect of spending part of the summer in school.
The idea of extra money from the federal government is enticing. But the federal money should come with no strings attached. Politicians who passed or who have reviewed the CARES Act have applauded the portion of it dealing with the educational funds, saying that the federal bureaucrats are providing a lot of leniency to state and local education administrators to determine how those funds will be spent.
But there are always strings attached. If there were no strings attached, the federal government wouldn’t require a plan for how the money will be spent before it is rewarded. America’s original educational model was one where the states controlled student learning — not the federal government. But the federal government has increasingly used the promise of money — tax dollars that the teachers and parents are sending to Washington in the first place — to assert its control. A global health crisis should not be used by the federal government as an opportunity to further that trend.