COVID-19 And Michigan Public Schools: What Do We Need To Get Schools Back In Session This Fall?

COVID-19 And Michigan Public Schools: What Do We Need To Get Schools Back In Session This Fall?

Posted by Neighbors for public schools on Thursday, June 18, 2020

Michigan Public Schools Grapple With New COVID-19 Challenges While Facing Drastic Budget Shortfalls

Experts weighed in today on the challenges Michigan public schools face as they look to reopen this fall. The webinar, "COVID-19 And Michigan Public Schools: What Do We Need To Get Schools Back In Session This Fall," was hosted by the non-profit, Neighbors for Public Schools. It gathered experts from across the state to discuss potential solutions.

"This is a very serious virus that's stricken our country, our society and also our state. But communities of color, like the city of Flint which I represent, has been stricken heavily with this," said Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley. The Mayor went on to emphasize that whether schools “do virtual education or a brick-and-mortar education or a combination of both," that schools need the level of resources required to deliver technology and support services for students.

Parents, teachers, administrators, and public school advocates have pointed to an underinvestment in public schools by the Trump Administration as an issue impacting public schools across the country. Out of the roughly 2.2 trillion dollars in the CARES Act, only 13.5 billion of that went to K-12 public schools.

Chris Wigent, the Executive Director of the Michigan Association of Superintendents and Administrators cited a recent report on Internet connectivity in Michigan. "A survey was run right after we had the closing of schools, and the survey found that approximately one-third of the children in the state, 500,000, either did not have a device or did not have internet access."

Currently, Michigan's public schools are facing up to a $700 per-student funding cut that is raising concern among school leaders across the state. Panelists acknowledged that Michigan's leadership is doing everything it can to help public schools, but more federal resources are needed.

“Right now, we can make the decision that we're actually going to invest in kids or… we can make the decision that we can make our kids bear the brunt of this," said Jared Burkhart, the Executive Director of the Michigan chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics. "It's a decision that we have to make. If we can bail out other industries, we can invest in our kids."

Decades of previous funding cuts to public schools have caused Michigan to rank among the worst in the nation for ratio of students to nurses in schools. According to the latest estimates, there is only 1 nurse per 6,570 students in Michigan. Over 800,000 have no access to clinical services at all.

"We must recognize the fact that students' basic physical and mental health needs must continue to be met. So with the management of [COVID-19] and the entrance of even just a typical cold and influenza season, the need for additional school nurses is paramount," said Rachel VanDenBrink, President-Elect of the Michigan Association of School Nurses. "The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends one nurse to every school building, which is definitely a goal to set."

In recent weeks, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has taken funding intended for public schools in the CARES Act and instead used it to fund private schools – many of them for-profit schools. Secretary DeVos's actions have come under heavy criticism in light of the challenges facing public schools in Michigan and across the U.S.


About Neighbors for Public Schools

Neighbors for Public Schools (NFPS) is a community of parents, teachers, education experts and community leaders who are dedicated to understanding the challenges facing public schools and the commonsense solutions to improving them. NFPS’s mission is to educate Michigan’s communities about the challenges facing K-12 public schools, and to analyze solutions to those challenges. Neighbors for Public Schools Corporation is organized and shall be operated exclusively for charitable purposes in accordance with Code Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

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