U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown: Ensuring Ohio students can learn safely and effectively

Published 12:29 am Thursday, August 13, 2020

With the new school year set to begin for many Ohio students, we need to ensure that our communities have the support and resources they need for our kids to learn safely and effectively.

Educators, parents, school board members and community leaders across Ohio have been working hard to keep our students from falling behind. But we know there are many challenges that still need to be addressed.

One of the biggest challenges is resources.

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Upgrading technology, buying protective equipment, reconfiguring school building layouts, hiring more IT staff – these are just a few of the extra expenses school systems are facing as they work to continue educating our kids in the middle of a pandemic.

And while expenses are going up, local tax dollars are going down. The federal government needs to step in and support Ohio communities with flexible funding for state and local governments – including dedicated funding for public schools.

With the virus still spreading and cases on the rise in Ohio, we know it’s not going to be safe for all school systems to open in-person, at all times.

Yet Senate Leader Mitch McConnell’s plan conditions two-thirds of support for K-12 education on a return to in-person instruction. When schools make decisions about how to hold classes, they should be based on science and the best public health expertise, not President Trump’s and Mitch McConnell’s political agenda.

The last thing we should be doing during this pandemic is making it harder for schools to make informed decisions and effectively transition to remote learning if they need to, especially when we know the pandemic is already making inequalities in our schools worse.

Many Ohioans don’t have a reliable internet connection, either because it’s not available where they live, or it’s prohibitively expensive. This digital divide will make it harder for many students to fully participate, and we know it will disproportionately affect low-income Ohioans, Black and brown families and rural communities.

It’s why I’ve introduced several bills to help increase both the affordability and accessibility of broadband internet.

My Emergency Broadband Connections Act would provide free or low-cost broadband service to low-income families and those who have lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And the Rural Broadband Acceleration Act, which I’m supporting with Senator Portman, would expand access to rural broadband.

I am also pushing for dedicated funding for full-service community learning centers that provide critical health and social services for families—including mental health services, tutoring, classes for parents, after-school programs and connections with community resources that are particularly important right now.

We need full, dedicated funding for these priorities, so Ohio families and schools are not forced to choose between their health and students’ education. We cannot leave Ohio communities to fend for themselves in the middle of a pandemic.

Sherrod Brown is a Democrat and the senior U.S. senator serving Ohio in Washington, D.C. His office can be reached at 614-469-2083.