The Center applauds the new Biden administration for prioritizing students’ needs during COVID-19 by issuing an executive order supporting the reopening and continuing operation of schools. Students, especially those already on the margins, have borne disproportionate impacts from the pandemic, and swift action is necessary to ensure equity and avoid additional learning loss.
The Center wholeheartedly supports President Biden’s call to prioritize both safety and high-quality instruction. To date, state and local education agencies have grappled to make decisions about whether or not to conduct in-person teaching, due in part to limited federal guidance. We are heartened by the Biden administration’s commitment to evidence-based policy decisions and look forward to recommendations grounded in science for mitigating risk while reopening schools.
Addressing the impacts of COVID-19 on students will be impossible without timely and high-quality data, and we commend the Executive Order’s call for collecting data disaggregated by student demographics, including disability status. Students with disabilities, students of color, and students living in poverty already experienced poor educational outcomes prior to the pandemic, and our partners in the field report that existing achievement gaps are widening during the pandemic. Many disability rights organizations, including the Center, have already been working to assess and address this challenge, and we urge the Biden administration to consult these partners.
While reopening schools is essential, the dangers of COVID-19 remain, and many students with disabilities are at high risk for the disease. We commend the administration’s commitment to prioritizing the public education system by allocating COVID-19 supplies and testing materials to schools and supporting the expansion of contact tracing programs.
We urge the administration to continue to expand relief funding for the public education system and to prioritize the needs of the students who have been most impacted by the pandemic. We look forward to ongoing engagement with the Biden administration on school reopening and safety.