Rep. Banks’ Reopen our Schools Act draws criticism from challenger

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Rep. Jim Banks’ opponent Chip Coldiron told WANE 15 that Banks’ Reopen Our Schools Act is irresponsible.  

“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 get out there and talk to the superintendent and find out how you can actually help them.”

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. 

This drew criticism from Banks’ challenger who is running for the District 3 seat this November.  

“I really felt angered at it because I felt that he was trying to take power out of the local school districts and the superintendents,” said Coldiron.  

In a sit-down interview, Coldiron told WANE 15 that federal legislators should not try to strongarm school districts into reopening if they aren’t comfortable. Coldiron is a science teacher at Norwell High School and said that there is still a lot that is unknown regarding the Coronavirus.  

“One thing we need to keep in mind is that even though Rep. Banks is from northeast Indiana, this would apply to schools across the entire country,” said Coldiron. 

In a news release, Banks’ office said research suggests children are at a relatively very low risk of becoming infected by coronavirus, and remote learning does not work. 

“As we are seeing states reopen across the country we are seeing people in their 20s and 30s continue to get infections as well, so to simply say across the board that students aren’t going to get it if we go back to school there is just not enough data to support that yet,” said Coldiron. 

A week ago Rep. Banks told WANE that he believes that the risk of holding students behind on education is unacceptable and he says he won’t stand for it. He added that he is willing to work with any school that reaches out and request help to reopen in the fall.

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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