WEST CHESTER (March 26, 2020) — State Senator Andy Dinniman, Minority chair of the Senate Education Committee, made the following statement today, March 25, on Senate Bill 751 (The School Code Bill). The first three paragraphs were presented on the Senate floor:
“While all of us unite in support of the School Code Bill in this time of crisis, we need to be honest and clearly say that while the bill calls for continuity of education during this period of school closure, many of our school districts, as well as the Commonwealth as a whole, are not prepared to deliver such continuity.
We are telling our schools to go to online learning, but more than half of students in Philadelphia, our largest school district, do not have access to computers. In many rural areas, there is no bandwidth for online learning. You cannot just give a student a computer and assume they are prepared for online learning.
The legislature needs to provide our schools with the means to provide a variety of alternate education approaches and funding is available. For instance, the budget currently includes $100 million for assessment testing, which has been canceled as a result of the COVID-19.
We do not know how long our schools will be closed. Three states have already closed their schools for the entire year. It is now more important more than ever to work with the legislature and on the local level with our teachers, parents, and retired educators to form a learning corps to help students. One way we could help might be a one-to-one phone call between a current or past educator and a student to assist their learning.
Parents need to engage their children in learning and school districts must provide parents with the curriculum that is to be utilized. There is much knowledge in this regard available through the robust home school movement in our community. Not only parents but older children can help younger children learn their lessons.
The truth is that the educational establishment, with some school districts as exceptions, has not planned for long-term continuity of education in the face of a crisis such as this. The answer cannot simply be to point to online learning.
Our local communities, school districts, intermediate units, active and retired teachers, students, and parents must form a learning corps at the local level across the Commonwealth. The legislature must be prepared to actively assist this alternate learning format with a total commitment to making sure that each and every child has the opportunity to learn.”