Last week Durham Public Schools (DPS) announced it was developing six learning centers for parents to access remote learning options.
According to information on the DPS web site the learning centers serve students in PreK to grade and “are an expanded day-long version of our before-and-after school program:” The program will be available from 7am to 6 pm Monday through Friday. Fees for the learning centers are on a sliding income scale, just like the before and after school programs have always operated. Families will be charged $140 per student. Fees for students who are eligible for free-reduced lunch would be $70 per week.
If you’re like most people, DPS’s announcement raises a whole lot of questions. For example:
Why is DPS running instructional activity at a school that’s been closed because of coronavirus?
If it is not safe to have students in classrooms, why is DPS offering services to gather students and offer instructional activities?
A lot of other people are asking questions too:
Jeanette Doran of the North Carolina Institute for Constitutional Law knows our constitution says a free and uniform education must be offered to all students. However, Doran asks “What’s free about $140 per week?”
Senator Phil Berger, (R-Rockingham) said in a statement, “Charging a tax on families who wish to access public learning center resources inside public schools is unconstitutional. Durham, and any other jurisdiction charging this illegal tax, is preventing underprivileged families from accessing public school resources. They need to repeal their unconstitutional school tax immediately.”
Lest you think Durham is the only place where this is happening, think again.
Bob Bowden and Corey DeAngelis dedicated a fair amount of their weekly podcast Random Assignment to highlighting numerous other areas in the country (e.g. Virginia, California, Oregon) where public schools are closed but offering their buildings to provide educational services to families and students for a fee.
The contradictions are on full display.
Why school administrators don’t think this is a problem may tell you all you need to know.