FORT WAYNE, Ind (WANE) – Rep. Jim Banks spoke to WANE 15 to explain the intent of the Reopen Our Schools Act, which calls for schools that do not reopen in the fall amid the ongoing coronavirus threat to lose federal funding.
“At the end of the day, I don’t want any school to lose a single dollar of funding,” said Banks, a 3rd District Republican. “I want them to reopen their school and get kids back in the classroom where they belong.”
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 about the kids,” said Banks. “We are at risk of leaving an entire generation of kids behind if we do not get them back in the classroom and provide them the adequately far superior education that they would receive if they were left at home learning virtually.”
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.
The president of the East Allen Educators Association said it is egregious for Rep. Banks to threaten to withhold money during a time when states are looking to cut education’s budgets.
“Instead of him wasting his time trying to force us to do something according to his timeline, he should be spending his time trying to work to find additional money and stabilized money for grades K-12 education,” said Andra Kosmoski.
Banks said most of the funding for schools comes from state and local taxes, but for the schools that receive federal grants, he questioned whether schools that don’t open need the federal funding.
“For example, why does a school need a school safety grant if they don’t open the doors of their school?” asked Rep. Banks. “As a congressman, as a taxpayer, and as a parent, we have to ask those fundamental questions.”
On WANE 15’s Facebook page, many parents commented that they are worried about the safety of their children and the risk of them being exposed to the virus.
Banks said that shouldn’t be a worry.
“We don’t want to put any kid in danger, we can take necessary precautions,” said Banks. “Other countries are doing this. Other countries are finding a way to get their kids back in the classroom and haven’t seen any upticks of COVID 19 cases by doing so.”
Kosmoski disagreed. She said that the school district has been working with local and state health departments to safely return to schools. She added that for Banks to strong arm schools to reopen according to his opinion and his timeline instead of what is safe for our students and families and employees is shameful.
“We are seeing younger and younger people being hospitalized,” said Kosmoski. “It’s not just the kids, those kids take it back to their parents, to their grandparents, to day cares and then you have the teachers in the building. it’s not like it’s kids teaching kids. There are more than kids in the building.”
Banks said 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.