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We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Friday, March 3, 2023

How Can We Help Students Catch Up on Their Delayed Education?

Families, communities, and nations are stronger when children are properly educated. The nation and the world have been through a pandemic that shut down businesses and schools. Children were expected to learn remotely, but they fell behind in their studies. Some people say that children lost up to a year’s worth of education in addition to being denied social contacts.

Children and families will most likely struggle for years due to the shutdowns, but one man has a plan to help the children. Representative Burgess Owens (R-Utah) has a plan that could help children catch up in their schooling. He recently sponsored a bill that would offer scholarships for children to pay for private school tuition or private tutoring – on a temporary basis. Owens recently said the following in an interview with the Deseret News. “Education should be looked at as a civil right. Every child, no matter what their background, race, creed, or ZIP code has great potential when given the same opportunities.”

Owens is not interested in allocating more money for schools, but he does want to compel school districts the choices to use federal money that has already been allocated to education. Owen’s plan – the Raising Expectations with Child Opportunity Vouchers for Educational Recovery (RECOVER) Act – would allow parents and school districts to use money allocated to education in the $1.7 trillion American Rescue Plan Act. Joshua Lee gave the following explanation in the Deseret News article. 

Under the American Rescue Plan legislation, the U.S. Department of Education distributed $122 billion in March 2021 to states and school districts to help open classrooms and address the impacts the pandemic had on students’ learning.

Two years later, approximately 77% of the allocated money still hasn’t been spent across the country, according to Owens. The state of Utah and its school districts received a total of $615 million in education funds.

Owen’s bill would establish “child opportunity scholarships” to pay for other types of education – private school tuition, tutoring services or education therapy for children with learning disabilities. The amount of the scholarships would be determined by the individual school districts, but parents and local school administrators and teachers would carry the most responsibility in determining how best to help each child.

The scholarships would last until each school district exhausted their American Rescue Plan funds. The purpose of the scholarships would be to help students to catch up on their learning that was delayed due to the pandemic. Owens does not intend to make such scholarships permanent.

Critics of Owens’ bill claim that this attempt to help children will only “punish schools” for following the rules. They note that school districts have until 2024 to spend the money. One critic said that it is a way to take public school funds and “send them to private schools.” Critics also say that the allocated funds are already marked to help children catch up.

Owens believes that his bill would pass the Republican-controlled House but may not pass the divided Senate or ever be signed into law by Joe Biden. However, he believes that it will let parents know that there are people in Congress who are aware of the problems and parents and students face and are trying to help them.

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