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Opinion | For Alice’s sake, stop playing politics with school COVID money

At the beginning of the school year my wife and I made the difficult choice to enroll our daughter, Alice, in remote kindergarten. 

This decision was heavily influenced by our strong desire to keep close friends and family at increased risk of COVID-19 infection safe. We count ourselves lucky to have a wonderful kindergarten teacher, who is adapting to remote teaching in creative ways.

Owen Goslin with daughter Alice
Owen Goslin and his family live in Cheboygan, where his daughter Alice is enrolled in public school. (Courtesy photo)

Nevertheless, my wife and I carry the burden of the school day. 

While Alice's time spent with her teachers may add up to 40-60 minutes of any given day, my wife and I are responsible for the remaining hours of instruction. On many days that means cajoling, arguing, frustration and tears. It’s a situation that is stressful for both us and Alice. We worry about the lasting effects this strange year might have on her development.

In December, the U.S. Congress passed a bipartisan relief package designed to be a bridge to a larger, more robust package sought by the Biden administration. The package included money to be used for education – to ensure our children get all the support they need while navigating learning during a pandemic.

Sadly, Republicans in Lansing have decided to use the $2.1 billion meant for students as a bargaining chip to use against the Whitmer administration. Rather than appropriating dollars meant explicitly for classrooms, Republicans in the Michigan Legislature are holding the funds hostage in the hopes of scoring an unrelated political concession. This is wrong.

Since March 2020, our children have had to adjust to online learning, masks and distancing when in school and the loss of socialization that defines much of the school experience. To keep students and their parents safe, sports have been shut down and delayed, proms and graduations were missed and many students without ready access to the internet fell even further behind. Students deserve every opportunity to make up for lost time and to ensure they don’t fall even further behind students in other states.

Republicans in the legislature have decided that it’s more important to delay students’ return to the classroom by playing politics with the health and education of our kids. Because of partisan games, the Class of 2021 may be the second class forced to miss their prom and graduation. The worst part of this is that it’s completely avoidable.  

The simple fact of the matter is that federal dollars are appropriated to states and earmarked for a specific purpose. There is nothing in the federal relief package that says these dollars can be used as political leverage. To that end, Republicans in Lansing should immediately end their political games, pass the funds along to the schools as required and apologize to children for using them to pressure the governor.

If Lansing Republicans refuse to release funds to get our schools back to normal, then students, parents and school officials should rebuke them. With more and more vaccinations happening everyday, we are closer to moving beyond the pandemic, but a broader illness still is allowed to fester if we allow our legislators to take hostage the very education and personal safety of Michigan’s students anytime they don’t get their way.

Bridge welcomes guest columns from a diverse range of people on issues relating to Michigan and its future. The views and assertions of these writers do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan. Bridge does not endorse any individual guest commentary submission. If you are interested in submitting a guest commentary, please contact Ron French. Click here for details and submission guidelines.

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