Helping Our Schools in a Time of Need

GUEST COLUMN

By Lisa E. Kaylie

One of the best parts of our community is our unwavering dedication to our kids and public education. Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic has turned what should be a great time of year — Back to School — into so much uncertainty.

We’ve all spent the summer not knowing how the return would be handled. Now we have an answer. Both Orange County school districts will employ remote learning for the first nine weeks of the school year. But where does that leave us and the kids in our lives?

We are all concerned. We all have questions. How will remote learning work? How are parents supposed to return to work? Will the quality of education be sufficient? How will we support children who don’t have laptops or reliable internet? What about food support? After-school
care?

The sheer number of weighty questions shines a light on one truth: we rely on our public schools.

Students may not be able to physically attend school safely right now, but that doesn’t mean our schools don’t need the same resources they require in any other year. Those resources are at risk right now.

In North Carolina, as throughout most of the U.S., public school funding is based on the number of students enrolled. This is known as average daily membership. A snapshot of attendance at each school is taken is taken on the 20th and 40th day, and school funding is based on the highest number from those two days. Every student counts.

Every family in our community that chooses to withdraw their children from public schools to attend a virtual charter school, private school or homeschool their children reduces the funding for our local schools.

When there are fewer students enrolled, the system gets less money. It’s as simple as that. In the case of virtual charter schools, the money that would go to our local school systems is actually routed to what are, in some cases, out-of-state for-profit providers. Every family should do what is best for their children, but they should be aware of the impact of that choice.

Not having students physically at school does not necessarily reduce school costs, especially in an unpredictable and increasingly expensive environment. There are fixed costs for our schools that are independent of the number of students enrolled.

Now more than ever, our local schools need every available penny of funding. It’s the only way they’ll be able to provide the best — and safest — possible education for all of our students going forward.

There are so many things about this fall that we don’t know, but there are some things we do know. Our community is stronger when we do things together. We can all contribute to the quality and safety of our schools.

If you are a parent or caregiver and believe in supporting our public schools, please consider registering your child for the remote learning paths provided by our local school districts. While these times are hard on us all, they are also an opportunity to commit to the things that make our community so strong.

Lisa E. Kaylie is a Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools parent.

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