By Rich Pezzullo
Let’s consider closing the public schools completely.
Sedentary indoor activities are a high-risk behavior. This is the “scientific” “fact” that keeps restaurants closed for indoor dining and hopefully opening at a fifty percent capacity.
If schools are going to enforce social distancing, they are going to have to operate under the same constraints – specifically, fifty percent capacity.
Where will the other fifty percent of our kids get their education? Curbside pickup?
Let’s take a step back and look at what happened when the CDC realized they did not have the capacity to perform all the COVID testing that the nation required. Instead of driving government dollars into the CDC and waiting for them to figure it out, policy was changed to one where the money follows the patient. With paying customers available, and a franchise to perform testing, America’s testing laboratories stepped up and scaled their operations with breathtaking speed.
If the realities are that movie theaters could be considered an anachronism and restaurants be considered a luxury, then we must re-think every social mechanism which bundles people together in a fixed space. We have examined schools based on efficiency, fairness and performance, but never on “public safety”. They are less safe today than they were in January. Every accommodation we make to put kids back to school forces us to reject what we have been told about COVID and its consequences.
Our education money should follow the students. I’m not advocating sending $15,000 checks to every parent in New Jersey – but I do want to make those dollars available to qualified vendors who can step up quickly to provide safe, thorough and efficient education.
The Department of Education can take over a registration and funding role. Parents can be given a login that identifies their school age children and each is assigned an education funding number. Accredited schools can invoice against the education funding number to get their tuition paid.
Municipalities can lease out their school facilities to people who want to run schools under the current model. Gyms can be accredited for physical education programs and can partner with schools that will be established in the strip malls and downtown areas becoming vacant and available at an alarming rate.
New Jersey has kids who need education, underemployed college educated millennials who can teach them and millions of square feet of available real estate that can be converted to educational use.
We have a plethora of qualified administrators and educators who can move to the private economy and provide the needed leadership and expertise.
We should just use the money we’re already handing over for the operation of our schools to people better qualified in the post-COVID era to educate our kids.
We’ve seen with COVID that giving government a monopoly when time is of the essence is a recipe for failure.
We’ve seen how fast the private sector can react to need when the money follows the citizen. Let’s not expose our children to any more trauma trying to use a system of delivery that just doesn’t work.
Stop experimenting on our kids. Close the public schools. Redeploy the resources to the private sector.
RICH PEZZULLO hails from Monmouth County; he is a technology specialist, retired major with the U.S. Army reserve, and a former candidate for Congress in New Jersey’s 6th District.