By Amanda Menas
The COVID-19 outbreak has been especially trying for students and educators as more and more districts across the country close schools. Educators are helping to make sure low-income students don’t go hungry, scrambling to convert lessons to online platforms, and figuring out how best to communicate with students and families.
Instead of focusing on supporting students by closing the homework gap, on Friday, March 27, Betsy DeVos introduced her agenda for national school vouchers, shamelessly using the COVID crisis. Taking more resources out of public education is the last thing schools need now.
Educators and working families need an experienced and compassionate leader who will look out for public schools while addressing the COVID-19 outbreak and handling the emerging economic crisis. Former Vice President Joe Biden has shown that he is the steady voice we need to lift up working people and middle class families during this time.
From the start of this crisis, Biden understood the threat and laid out the steps he would have taken as president to slow the spread of the virus. Specifically, Biden has listened to educators from the beginning on what they need to protect students, educators, and families during this crisis. Educators have suggested, and Biden has committed to, providing direct student loan forgiveness, Social Security boots for retired educators and other seniors, cost-free treatment for the virus, and full paid sick leave for all workers including hourly workers like ESPs.
“No president can promise to prevent future outbreaks, but I can promise you this: When I’m president, we will be better prepared, respond better, and recover better. We’ll lead with science and listen to the experts. And I will always tell you the truth,” said Biden.
Throughout this crisis, Joe Biden’s empathy and compassion have been on display. Here are five more ways the Biden Plan would help students, educators, and families as president:
In addition to advocating for 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave, Biden endorses the Healthy Families Act, which ensures workers receive seven days of paid sick leave for routine personal and family health needs. He advocates for those impacted by the COVID-19 crisis to receive 14 days of paid leave—while also ensuring that employers will not bear any additional costs for such additional leave in the midst of this crisis. Biden’s emergency paid leave plan would create a federal fund to cover 100 percent of weekly salaries.
“Providing widespread access to paid sick leave not only allows families to recover from sickness, but it also keeps sick workers and children away from the general population and helps slow the spread of disease,” says Biden.
Cancelling Student Loan Debt
Biden says Congress must pass legislation to provide financial relief to students until the worst of the economic fallout due to the crisis is over. He advocates for cancelling up to $10,000 of federal student loan debt per person. Biden says, “Young people and other student debt holders bore the brunt of the last crisis. It shouldn’t happen again.”
Expanding unemployment benefits
Under a Biden administration, an expanded Emergency Unemployment Compensation plan would be put into place to support workers facing extended unemployment, and expand benefits and eligibility for those with reduced hours or work-sharing arrangements, domestic workers, caregivers, gig workers, and independent contractors.
“[M]any who lose their jobs will be prevented from looking for work due to public health rules related to containing community spread. The Biden Plan will ensure that workers who lose jobs but cannot meet search requirements due to this public health crisis are not denied benefits,” says Biden.
Keeping Students Fed
To ensure that students who rely on school meal programs for nutrition don’t go hungry, Biden calls for a federally funded health crisis food initiative. This program will create a federal-state partnership to expand SNAP relief for the duration of the crisis, as well as broaden the type of food relief responses available to states. Biden also wants to allow schools to work before they are impacted by the crisis to get permission to provide food even when school is closed.
Closing the homework gap
As a majority of schools across the country have closed, students and educators are adjusting to online education. However, for students without access to technology or WiFi connection, this transition could leave them behind their peers. For others still, the costs of continuing remote education or remote activities normally done after-school, will be overly burdensome. Biden plans to expand assistance to federal child care centers and assistance to schools, particularly Title I schools. This plan will help ease “cost issues for parents seeking childcare and for schools and educators seeking to continue teaching remotely,” says Biden.