U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio on Tuesday continued making the argument that schools must reopen to restore normalcy to America’s youth.
In an appearance on Fox News, the Senator noted that just as retail and other businesses are open, so too should educational institutions.
“People are going to work everyday. They’re going to work at the grocery store. They’re going to work at Walgreens, Wal-Mart, CVS. They’re picking up garbage. They’re police and fire, the janitors … people are going to work everyday,” Rubio said, adding that “similar expectations should be placed on those in the education system.”
“We have to figure out a way to get back into school. Maybe you start a little later, get flexible on the scheduling, but it has to happen,” Rubio said. “The biggest losers in this decision making are going to be lower and middle income families who do not have those options available to them to leave their kids at home.”
The outbreak of the coronavirus this year, and the upending of society it has produced, have caused these views of school in American life to collide in ways that have thrown millions of parental lives into disarray. Now, President Donald Trump is demanding that schools reopen in the fall. But with the virus resurging widely, many working parents see no good options.
In Florida and Texas, both states with spiking case numbers, officials are requiring school districts to offer in-person schooling to those who want it. Texas’ guidance for schools includes a recommendation to space desks six feet apart and, if that’s impossible, “plan for more frequent hand washing and/or hand sanitizing” and “consider whether increased airflow from the outdoors is possible.”
Rubio’s words mirror a statement from Gov. Ron DeSantis that went viral a few days ago.
“I’m confident if you can do Home Depot, if you can do Walmart, if you can do these things, we absolutely can do the schools. I want our kids to be able minimize the education gap that I think has developed,” the Governor said Thursday in Jacksonville.
Critics of DeSantis’ statement noted a vast difference between the occasional trip to a big box store and spending several hours a day, five days a week in school rooms, many of which are in antiquated buildings with HVAC systems that are suspect at best, especially in Florida’s major cities.
Whether Rubio’s variation on the same theme receives a similar critique isn’t yet clear, but the Senator mirrors the Governor’s thinking that those students most impacted are from disadvantaged backgrounds.
“If schools aren’t open, you’re probably dropping the kid off with a lady in the neighborhood who takes care of all the kids,” Rubio said, noting that students not subject to “brick and mortar” institutions may fall through the cracks in ways beyond learning outcomes.
“A lot of child abuse cases are identified in schools,” Rubio noted.
Students and teachers who can’t hazard risk need a “non-school option,” but the rest need to be “in a brick and mortar facility so they can learn.”
As he did on a Monday hit on CNBC, the Senator urged a cost-benefit analysis, one that includes “significant costs.”
“At some point schools really need to open,” Rubio reiterated.