Opinion | K-12 In-person needs to be quality and fast, not cheap.

If Republican lawmakers want students to be in school as soon as possible, then we need to add enough funding to make it safe to do so.


Jake Maish

A sign for the Iowa City Community School District is seen outside the district’s administration building on Tuesday, April 28.

Peyton Downing, Opinions Columnist

Recent commentary from Iowa’s junior Republican senator, Joni Ernst, and other Republicans have put an incredibly weighty moral imperative on returning kids to schools. It is a crime of negligence that we are allowing the futures of the next generation to be tampered with by a pandemic. While it is widely true that the education of students is suffering and needs to be dealt with, pushing for schools to be opened immediately is a decision with consequences.

Take a look at what happened at Northwest Junior High in Coralville, where over 115 students had to quarantine because of COVID-19 exposure.

I’m not going to argue that being online is simple and easy. I know firsthand that switching from in person to online is incredibly detrimental to the education of a person. However, it isn’t simply a matter of local schools deciding that they just want to stay online and then flipping a switch to and attend in-person.

Well, it shouldn’t be a quick transition if one of the concerns in reopening is keeping students safe.

If the safety of students isn’t concerned, then you could feel free to ignore social distancing guidelines and require mask wearing and mandate several other forms of safety to ensure that COVID-19 doesn’t spread among students.

But apparently, we don’t have to worry about student health in Iowa. Iowa Republicans and Gov. Kim Reynolds voted down Democrat provisions to the reopening bill that would have certain safety mandates and guidelines in schools reopening.

After all, why bother mandating it when it’s in the best interest of the school districts to already have such provisions in place? The state already plans on providing support to schools with additional funding and masks, according to the *Des Moines Register*.

There are places in the country where schools have already gone back to online learning after reintroducing in-person teaching — my home state of Michigan included. Waterford high schools were shut down and forced to go back online after COVID-19 hit students and teachers alike until there weren’t alternatives, according to the Oakland Press. These are schools that still have mask mandates, along with other safety precautions.

If schools that have safety mandates are already returning to online teaching after going in-person, we need to ensure that our schools have every possible precaution to ensure that our schools don’t have massive outbreaks.

We might be putting our children behind education-wise by not returning to in-person learning sooner rather than later, but it’s better than giving them permanent and life-long health conditions. If we want to put students back into schools, we need to make sure we’re not replacing one mental health crisis with a new physical health one — which, honestly, is putting a Band-Aid on a gangrenous limb.

You see, for the past several years, Republicans have consistently under valued and under budgeted K-12 education. It’s happened in 2018, 2019, and 2020, according to the Associated Press, Iowa Public Radio, and The Gazette, respectively.

If these schools are going to need to reopen in order to not face licensure discipline, then they’re going to need to have everything necessary to ensure the safety of students. This includes having PPE equipment like plastic barriers, hand sanitizers, alcohol wipes, adequate space for students, and more.

Sending kids back to underfunded schools without safety mandates is only a recipe for disaster. If this is going to happen, we need to properly fund these schools, remove the absurd impositions the governor has put upon them, and ensure that they have the means with which to succeed in their educations.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.