This story was originally published by Chalkbeat Colorado. More at chalkbeat.org.
Republican lawmakers in Colorado want to redirect state money from schools and instead give it to families so they can hire teachers and buy educational materials to support learning from home.
In a letter signed by the entire Republican delegation, lawmakers asked Gov. Jared Polis to convene a special session of the legislature to address education concerns. They also laid out a policy proposal called “Safe Learning Choices” that would make financial assistance available to families. The money could be used to help parents stay home, pay teachers, support the creation of small homeschooling groups or pods, and buy devices and internet access, among other needs.
“This support would be available to families whose children cannot attend public school full time due to the virus — whether due to their own risk concerns or due to their local school deciding not to operate,” they wrote. “These families would be entitled to all or a portion of their child’s per-pupil revenue to access the educational resources they need to thrive during the pandemic. The funding would allow parents to remain at home, engage an educator, purchase quality curriculum and materials, and if necessary, the computers and broadband service to ensure access.”
The effort was led by state Sen. Bob Gardner, a Colorado Springs Republican.
“Colorado’s parents are concerned both for their children’s health and their education,” he said in a statement. “If we act quickly, we can provide parents with the resources to educate their children in home or in small groups arranged by them to ensure that their children don’t fall behind.”
Democrats and Polis quickly rejected the idea, saying it was purely political.
Many Colorado school districts spent the summer planning for a return to full-time, in-person learning, and state guidelines lay out a path that would allow elementary schools to operate with normal class sizes. But as cases of the coronavirus increase throughout the state, many school districts are now planning to start the school year remotely, with the possibility that online learning could extend for weeks or months. Other school districts are planning hybrid models that have students in school just a few days a week.