Since the governor has closed schools for the year, parents should receive some of the remaining education funding to help them access learning services for children

By LIV FINNE  | 
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Apr 7, 2020

On March 12, Governor Inslee closed all schools in Washington state in response to the corona virus crisis. After some delay, state superintendent Chris Reykdal directed districts, on March 30th, to provide students with limited online instruction. Yesterday the governor closed all schools for the rest of the year. He noted the public school system had not prepared for this.       

Governor Inslee said:

“I want to be clear about this. Transforming a traditional school and fully delivering instruction at a distance, or through an online portal, is no small feat. Our traditional model has been nearly 150 years in the making. We know that distance learning could never replace the learning and other benefits that students get from attending school in person. This unprecedented health emergency demands we take this step, both for the sake of our children and for the sake of our community.  I am asking districts and educators to do your best during this trying time to perfect the distance learning model.”

The state’s education budget for this year is about $17 billion.  When Governor Inslee shut schools, he canceled fourteen weeks of instruction, about one-third of the school year. With more than one-third of funding available, parents should receive $2,000 to pay for laptop computers, internet access, curricula and other tools so they can help their child learn through the end of the school year, and into the summer if necessary.

Families are entitled to education resources.  Providing $2,000 makes sense, since it would supplement the assistance now coming from the federal government. The average family of four will soon receive $3,400 from the new CARES Act recently signed by President Trump.

Colleges and universities across the country are providing refunds to families because students cannot continue living in dorms, eat meals or attend classes.  Families with younger children deserve a “refund” too, since the community has paid for an education they are not receiving.

Parents are under considerable stress and need help. Unemployment claims have soared. Businesses have shut down. Some families have lost paychecks, and others are worrying their income might disappear too. Unlike public school employees, families have no guarantee they will be able to pay their bills.  

Governor Inslee is rightly urging educators, district administrators and union executives to be flexible and creative during these trying times. 

In the same way, state lawmakers can help families by providing $2,000 out of the unused education budget for 2020.  Helping now would provide direct aid to families during this health crisis, and serve as a positive symbol of Washington state’s true commitment to the continued learning of its children.