The work of the 2021 Delaware General Assembly has kicked off with fervor.
We are grateful that legislators have education on the mind in one of their first pieces of business, since the educational crisis caused by Covid-19 could be one of its longest lasting impacts. Senate Bill 42 seeks to give temporary relief from evaluations to teachers who are already stressed about so much this year. Delaware educators have been given a tough hand, facing the challenges of teaching students through distance learning while many still have to manage their own children’s distance learning at home.
What is less understandable is why this emergency legislation does not have two parts. An emergency mindset needs to look at the entire crisis and shine a light on the extreme gaps caused by this pandemic. For us at DelawareCAN, we see that students are suffering the most. They are away from friends, suffering loneliness and depression, and many are forced to watch siblings and maintain the home while their parents work. Reports show that more students than ever before are failing classes. At DelawareCAN, we believe an emergency mindset must be brought to serving our students during this 2021 legislative session.
Children are the transformative force that is being prepared for the challenges of this world.
Children are the heart and soul of our communities.
Children are the reason we invest 1/3 of our state budget in our schools.
One other state has already gotten this balance right. Tennessee ended a special session last week which temporarily relieved schools and educators of evaluations, much like Delaware is doing, but accompanied it with robust, innovative legislation that took learning loss head on through increased access to tutoring, summer school and literacy help. They capped it off by ensuring schools would collect data on student achievement so it will be crystal clear which students are suffering the most.
Delaware still has time to put the interests of students first. We need to show our children both concretely and symbolically that their future matters to Delawareans.
Our recommendations to Delaware lawmakers for the 2021 session include:
- Fund a corp of tutors to work with low-performing students this summer and fall, giving them the extra instruction they need.
- Implement better student tracking, uniform attendance rules and publicly report the findings.
- Allow failing students the opportunity to make up work and retroactively improve their grades.
- Families with children at home have been forced to cover education expenses out of pocket during Covid-19. Give all Delaware families $500 per child to cover and reimburse them for educational expenses.
- Invest immediately in the development of more “learning pods” for the spring semester. Education pods allow children to meet in safe, small groups and have their distance learning facilitated by an aide, allowing parents to return to work and assisting teachers by keeping students focused.
- Use this moment to solve Delaware student funding once and for all. Stand with the Education Equity Delaware coalition. Fund students based on need, so that as we seek to make up learning loss, resources are flowing to the students who need it the most.
- Show students we are serious about addressing centuries of racial inequity and make Black History mandatory for Delaware students.
This is a moment for historic leadership and we urge Delaware lawmakers to rise to the challenge.
Help us by sending a message to the legislature letting them know that kids need to come first in this legislative session.