Rep. Banks further explains why virtual learning is not ideal

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In this March 6, 2020, photo, a classroom is seen vacant through a window at Saint Raphael Academy in Pawtucket, R.I., as the school remains closed following a confirmed case of the coronavirus. As a growing number of schools around the country close their doors because of the new coronavirus, they are confronted with the dilemma of whether to move classes online and run the risk of leaving behind the many students who don’t have internet or computers at home, or parents with flexible work schedule. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Schools in our area have announced reopening plans amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Some districts gave students the option of e-learning, but in-person learning is still available. 

A month ago, WANE 15 spoke with Congressman Jim Banks and he explained his “Reopen our Schools Act.” 

The legislation, authored by Banks and Rep. Tom Tiffany of Wisconsin, would prohibit schools (elementary to university) from receiving federal funds unless they reopen by Sept. 8. Only in-person classes count as re-opening, the bill suggests.

WANE 15 caught back up with Rep. Banks Friday afternoon and he still stands behind his bill. 

“It’s clear to me that parents all over northeast Indiana want to get their kids back in the classroom in the fall,” said Rep. Banks.” I am pleased that almost every school district in our area has released a plan to do just that.”

He reiterated that the reason he introduced his Reopened our Schools Act was to motivate schools across the nation to get children back in the classroom. He expressed his disappointment in states such as New York and California who may not reopen in the fall. 

“The science is behind getting kids back in the classroom. That is why I am going to fight so hard to make sure that every kid in America gets a good public education.”

According to Banks, studies proved that virtual learning isn’t working.

“Despite the heroic efforts of so many teachers who did everything they could to educate kids virtually, studies show that kids at the end of the last school year didn’t receive the type of education they needed to prepare them for the next school year,” said Banks. “We already know kids backslide over the summer, so for kids that don’t go back five days a week in the fall, they are going to be almost an entire school year behind.”

This bill drew criticism, not only from Hoosiers on WANE’s Facebook page, but also from his Democratic challenger Chip Coldiron. 

Coldiron is a science teacher at Norwell High School and said that he was angered when he read the bill. In a sit-down interview with WANE 15, the Army Veteran said he believes the Congressman is trying to take power away from the local school districts and the superintendents.

“They are already strained to the max and to threaten to take any money away I think it is very irresponsible for someone who says he wants to do the best for the students,” said Coldiron. “If you want to do the best for the students to get out there and talk to the superintendent and find out how you can actually help them.”

Banks disregarded the comments.

“I quickly dismissed those attacks from my opponent because what I am trying to do is give our schools the resources they need to reopen,” said Banks. “In fact, my bill gives liability protection for schools.”

ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND: 

  • The bill prohibits schools (elementary to university) from receiving FY20 funds unless they reopen by September 8th 
  • Schools must provide a plan to reopen *safely* per their normal operations pre-coronavirus 
  • The Secretary of Education can create a waiver process at her discretion  
  • Only in-person classes count as re-opening 
  • Maximum liability protection for schools 

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