The bill would guarantee that children in private or homeschooling would receive the same amount of money as children in the public school system, guarantee their access to federally funded school food programs, and protect the right of public and religious schools to operate against government interference.
In light of public schools across the country refusing to reopen at the end of the month due to COVID-19 fears, U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced legislation Wednesday that would give parents greater freedom to turn to alternative schools still willing to teach.
S. 4432, the Support Children Having Open Opportunities for Learning (SCHOOL) Act, would allow federal education funds to follow a child to the public school, private school, or homeschool program of their parents’ choice according to a press release from Paul’s office.
It would also guarantee that children in private or homeschooling would receive the same amount of money as children in the public school system, guarantee their access to federally funded school food programs, and protect the right of public and religious schools to operate against government interference, like the shutdown order recently imposed by Montgomery County, Maryland (which was soon reversed by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan).
“As the impact of the ongoing pandemic and the government response efforts continue to place parents in situations requiring greater flexibility in balancing working and providing for their families’ critical needs, especially when educating their children at home, my SCHOOL Act grants them that flexibility by empowering them to use their own tax dollars to find the option that best fits their family’s needs and allowing them to reclaim a bit of stability in uncertain times,” Paul declared.
Keeping schools closed is not among the coronavirus prevention or containment measures advocated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Last week, CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield said the “cost to our nation in continuing to keep these schools closed is substantial,” especially the mental and emotional toll of prolonged social isolation. “We’re seeing, sadly, far greater suicides now than we are deaths from COVID,” he said. “We’re seeing far greater deaths from drug overdose that are above excess that we had as background than we are seeing the deaths from COVID.”
The Trump administration has forcefully advocated that public schools reopen this fall. Yet despite the above concerns, and despite evidence that reopening would pose little-to-no risk to children or teachers, recent polls indicate that majorities remain wary of reopening.
Such public perception of the danger posed by COVID-19 has carried intense real-world consequences. Instead of targeted policies to secure vulnerable populations, most states responded to the outbreak by imposing strict limits on “non-essential” activity, including delays of non-urgent medical procedures. As a result, hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost, with more than 33 million Americans filing for unemployment and studies predicting that tens of thousands of small businesses will never reopen.