In March 2020, the lives of every American changed when COVID-19 shut down preschool learning programs, K-12 schools, and college campuses for more than 70 million American children, youth and students. Suddenly millions more parents – from baristas to bus drivers to politicians – with homebound students have been made aware of the importance of child care, schools, teachers and childcare. access to infrastructure and technological devices. Add the relentless length of the year to this educational devastation and the nation now has a massive, shared experience across the country unlike any since World War II.
This convergence of Americans, the COVID-19 constituency, wants a change in education. Only 55 percent of parents believe K-12 education is on the right track. Seventy-one percent of American adults are concerned about the academic progress of K-12 students, a trend across parties and income levels. Sixty-six percent of parents would rethink the way we educate students.
And now as the schools progress to full reopen this fallAs vaccinations and safety protocols progress daily, we are concerned about the potential for a return to the “norm” that existed before the pandemic. Equity gaps and disparities having been completely exposed, the system that produced them must change, and must change quickly.
the significant federal funding that Congress approved this year to support reopening our education system – from cleaning up schools to catching up on lost learning – offers a unique opportunity to bring about transformative change.
But do policy and education officials recognize this convergence of unprecedented public will and available dollars? Will they use this public will to make improvements and use the relief funds for real change?
We know that 82 percent of parents interrogates promote more workplace learning and apprenticeship programs. Yet we also know that many students lack of access to these types of programs, thus losing key skills and opportunities in college and careers at the same time employers struggle to find workers with skills and experience that match the vacancies. Workplace learning programs and apprenticeships help students build positive relationships with adults and provide hands-on work experience, preparing them for future success. Now is the time to invest in the programs parents, students and employers want. Bold moves in this space must happen – such as shifting federal policies and relief funds to invest in efforts like workplace learning that the COVID-19 constituency wants.
Together we have a 50-year-old collective making changes in politics and education. Our friendship and partnership working on behalf of children and bringing together diverse groups of leaders to end the partisan deadlock have helped us achieve the new heights that collaboration can help us reach. The effect of the pandemic on education has been felt by just about as large and diverse a population as one can imagine, and now is the time to engage this knowledgeable group in pushing for the necessary changes in our education system are needed. Without the federal, state, and nonprofit leaders working to create a public movement that can pressure policy makers to allocate these funds for maximum impact, we will also fail to meet the needs of our students. at the moment.
An unexpected public movement was born from the shared sacrifice. The COVID-19 constituency calls for a transformation in education at a time when federal relief investments could be leveraged to do just that. For elected policymakers and education officials, this is an unprecedented moment when they have ample resources and strong public support to take bold action that provides students with the education systems they need. they need and deserve. They must act and act now.
Bob Wise is the former Governor of West Virginia, who served from 2001 to 2005 and a former member of the United States House of Representatives, after serving from 1983 to 2001. He currently heads the education systems consulting firm , Bob Wise, LLC. Dr Javaid Siddiqi is President and CEO of the Hunt Institute.