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The debate over whether to reopen schools in the United States has been divided along partisan lines: Conservatives want to reopen them, citing science; liberals want to keep them closed a bit longer, citing hysteria—okay, to them, science.
However, I’ve noticed a bit of hypocrisy on this topic, as some schools remain closed for in-person education a bit longer: The same people who want to keep the schools closed are also people who have the means to form pods or micro-schools, leaving kids without those advantages—those with little financial excess or perhaps even one or two working parents—to flounder.
While I don't begrudge those families forming pods—heck, I used to homeschool—it's a bit too hypocritical for me in this moment when we should all agree, politics aside, our kids’ education is important and we need to move forward as a country.
A New York Post article claimed "Parents are spending $70,000 for their kids to learn in 'pods.'" A close read reveals the piece is referring to wealthier families, like folks that live in the Hamptons. One would imagine they could afford to spend that amount of money on a temporary situation.
"Christopher Rim, founder of the education and college consulting firm Command Education, has been inundated with calls from 'desperate parents' demanding leaders for pods that they've created with other families.
"He's already staffed four pods in the Hamptons with tutors and expects to close in on 10 by the time the school year begins, with kids expected to rotate learning at a different home each week. One Water Mill parent already volunteered her 13-bedroom manse as the permanent home base of her kid's 11th-grade four-person learning pod. He charges $3,500 per week per student, but offers a flat rate of $70,000 per kid if you pay the whole year up front, which covers 30 weeks of school."
I've done enough research on pods to know this is the exception to the rule—most families are spending far less, although it's far from free. Still, the irony here is obvious: The areas where schools are closed for in-person school and only offering virtual, like California, New York City, and Virginia, tend to be hotbeds of progressive thought.
This poll showed 25 percent of New York City parents were unsure of sending their kids back to school. This poll showed in San Diego, most parents agreed with mandated school closures. These also tend to be some of the wealthiest areas in the country. Many of the people living here may not be able to afford to spend $25,000 on a pandemic pod for their child but have enough excess income that it won’t break the bank for them to hire help.
This is simply not true for many parts of the country—even pockets of those states—where the average income is lower or where more working class families reside. While I'm sure they too likely want to keep their children safe, they also have struggled to balance facilitating virtual school and working—especially if their job is away from home.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune, my hometown newspaper, reported on families forming pods once local public schools decided to begin the year virtually and identified this disparity between income levels and working families.
"But the sudden rise of the student groups is raising questions about how the pandemic could widen the achievement gap and contribute to educational inequities between families who can afford more educational support and those who can't," the piece reads.
Heidi Fuhr, a full-time substitute teacher for Minneapolis Public Schools says the difference is "heartbreaking." "I'm thinking a lot about my usual students in [north Minneapolis]. I worry they are going to be left behind. Their families maybe can't afford tutors, and the parents might not even be home during the daytime to help if they are going to work."
Even administrators with Minneapolis Public Schools acknowledged this divide in a statement that read, in part, "Inevitably, this will lead to different outcomes between students who have access to those resources and those who don't." Although many polls of Minnesota parents show the majority support reopening schools, it's good to see some states acknowledge that touting school closures while claiming to care about kids less fortunate, is stunningly hypocritical.
Some districts are taking this hypocrisy a step farther by refusing to open for actual school but opening their doors and offering services as a daycare—for a fee.
I’ve supported reopening schools around the country, for weeks, and I also support parents who feel they have no other option than to operate a pandemic pod in order for their child to get a good education.
But I don't support progressive states, officials, and parents that cried for weeks about how their schools must remain closed to protect the masses from COVID-19 yet are able to dip into monstrous savings or rainy day funds to pay for their child's extravagant pod. The irony would be laughable if it wasn't such an important topic and the hypocrisy shows yet again why progressive ideologies are inconsistent and unbearable.