Tom Tiffany, Wisconsin’s newly elected congressman, wastes no time in declaring war on education in the middle of a pandemic.
Tom Tiffany, Wisconsin’s newly elected Republican congressman, introduced legislation Thursday that would cut off schools’ federal funding if they do not reopen by Sept. 8.
Tiffany is co-sponsoring the “Reopen Our Schools Act” with Republican Indiana Rep. Jim Banks. The bill would require schools to reopen with all their normal operating procedures by Sept. 8. Schools that remain closed or that move forward with virtual learning instead of in-person classes would be denied federal funding for the 2020-21 school year.
“These open-ended school shutdowns have set students back, made it harder for teachers to teach, and pushed parents to the breaking point,” Tiffany said in a statement. “It’s time to reopen America and get back to school.”
Health experts are still hesitant to give the greenlight for schools to reopen in the fall due to the coronavirus pandemic. Tiffany and Banks want to provide “maximum liability protection for schools” as they resume classes, according to a press release announcing the bill.
It is true that prolonged shutdowns have hampered students’ learning and widened the racial and economic achievement gap in public school systems. However, the potential community health risks of reopening too soon are still very much a factor.
Seventy percent of more than 300 epidemiologists surveyed by the New York Times said they would send their children back to school by fall, but the paper reported that many experts cautioned that their answers could change if the pandemic continues to pose a major risk.
In a joint statement, Tiffany and Banks claimed without evidence that children have a decreased chance of spreading the virus. While the World Health Organization has so far found that in-person learning in other countries has not resulted in large amounts of transmission, there have not been sufficient studies to declare that children less easily transmit coronavirus.
Children are less susceptible to catching the virus, and the virus tends to have less severe effects on young people, according to one study. But a potentially deadly condition, multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, has been discovered as a complication that can occur after children recover from coronavirus. Children’s Wisconsin announced last month that the hospital had treated seven cases of MIS-C.
Last month, the Centers for Disease Control laid out a stringent set of guidelines for schools to consider as they move to reopen, but Gov. Tony Evers and State Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor have not given any indication as to when Wisconsin schools may reopen.
It’s highly unlikely Tiffany and Banks’ bill will ever come to a vote, as Democrats control the House.