mike kennedy

A New Beginning

Feb. 1, 2021

As the clock ticked toward noon in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20, millions of educators and other Americans listened with anticipation as they heard the words, “I, Joseph Robinette Biden Junior, do solemnly swear.…”.

After enduring months of disruption to classroom instruction caused by the deadly Covid-19 pandemic and calls to resume school operations even if health and safety protection were not in place for students and staff, teachers and administrators had good reason to believe they once again had a friend of education in the White House.

Joe Biden’s choice of a former teacher and principal to lead the U.S. Education Department, his promise that he would push for districts and higher education institutions to get the billions of dollars of aid they need to reopen classrooms safely, even the fact that he is married to a community college professor, all provide evidence that schools and universities will have a higher priority in the new administration.

The president has called upon Congress to approve another $170 billion in aid for K-12 schools, colleges and universities. He also has issued an executive order to put steps into place so that schools and universities can reopen safely.

Educators and administrators seem to like what they’ve heard so far.

Daniel Domenech, executive director of AASA—the School Superintendent’s Association, noted that Biden’s plan for safely reopening schools included many elements the association was calling for: FEMA reimbursement for schools, a directive for updated guidance from the U.S. Education Department, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Department of Health and Human Services; expanded screening and testing in schools; and pushing the FCC to support more widespread online connectivity for students in their homes.

“This direct responsiveness…is critical and demonstrates that the Biden administration, serious in its priority of opening schools in its first 100 days, recognizes that the ultimate work and responsibility of opening schools lies with local school system leaders and that, as such, their voice, insights and recommendations should be reflected in any nationwide plan.”

National Education President Becky Pringle concurs that the new president’s plans have won favor with those working in classrooms and elsewhere in education.

“From day one of his administration, President Joe Biden is demonstrating he is listening to educators and proving that he understands the complexities of providing students with safe and equitable learning environments during the Covid-19 pandemic….Educators are
encouraged…knowing that there is finally a true partner in the White House who will prioritize students by working with educators in the decision-making process.”

The honeymoon may not last as difficult decisionsand conflicting desires go through the grinder of politics and legislative bureaucracy. But for now, educators and administrators who have survived nearly year of turmoil and tragedy can embrace the audacity
of hope.

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