Given the health and economic impact of the virus, private and parochial schools could be hit harder than public schools, as they do not have the government to fall back on, said Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Friday.
“We need to have immediate relief for those schools,” DeVos told the press. “Think about the impact of all of these kids who suddenly now are showing up at the traditional public school door because they no longer have this other option. That’s a crisis in the making right there.
“It would have an immediate impact, first of all, for those kids in those schools that are at risk of closing. If they don’t get additional resources or students able to enroll and bring the tuition, there are more that are at risk of closing.”
DeVos said she’s concerned that schools are being “very unevenly reopened” and this will hurt students.
“We know that many of the major urban areas have not reopened in person. And my greatest fear is for the kids who are the most vulnerable — for the ones whose parents don’t have the financial resources to do something different. They’re the ones who always get the short end of the straw…That is not right. It is unjust, and it’s something that I have been fighting for more than 30 years, which is exactly why we need to give the parents the resources … [to] decide what is best for them and their kids.”
DeVos will be visiting Sacred Heart Academy in Grand Rapids today to discuss how it has reopened amid the pandemic and "the important role Catholic schools play in providing students options for their education," according to the Department of Education. https://t.co/fHBYESomfH
— WOOD TV8 (@WOODTV) September 14, 2020
The Secretary’s warning comes as at least 160 private schools have closed so far in 2020 because of the economic consequences of the pandemic. The Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI), the largest Protestant school association in America with just under 2,200 schools in the U.S. with about 450,000 students, is worried about the situation.
“As in every sector of the economy, Christian schools are dealing with the challenges presented by the response to COVID,” An ACSI official said in a statement. “Yes, some are experiencing difficulties, but many are also meeting those challenges. We estimate that more than two dozen member schools (29 at last count) will have closed due to COVID and another two dozen were in jeopardy.”
The biggest number of school closures has come from Catholic schools, with 128 already closing due to the economic crisis caused by the virus. The National Catholic Education Association comments, “The biggest problem is parents’ ability to pay tuition and can they continue to pay tuition as the year goes on,” Sister Dale McDonald, the association’s director of public policy and education research, told media. “That’s a huge piece that we’re trying to look at with no real certainty about what it’s going to look like — particularly if this thing rears its head again in a more concerted effort in the next couple of months.” This is a crisis that can be largely averted if private and parochial schools are given access to potential funds through vouchers and set asides. If not, millions of children could be affected this school year.