Saturday, March 14, 2020

In times like these...

Students at Chicago's Little Village Academy as CPS school ordered closed. 
"The system is not really geared to what we need right now. That is a failing. Let's admit it." -- Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
With virus and science deniers Trump/Pence misleading the war against COVID-19, it's become impossible for local governments to rely on the feds for leadership out of the crisis. The bumbling and total incompetence of the Trump regime along with years of GOP assaults on the very idea of government has left us with a system totally ill-prepared and in full chaos mode.

Currently, the number-one concern is the lack of tests available to even begin to identify potential coronavirus patients and deliver adequate healthcare.

As yesterday's guest on Hitting Left, State Sen. Robert Peters pointed out, with the breakdown of federal support, resource-starved states, cities and local municipalities are forced to try and fill the gap. Peters, who along with States Atty. Kim Foxx, is championing efforts to get rid of cash bail, is also concerned about the plight of vulnerable prisoners and staff in the state's jails and prisons as the pandemic grows. A large percentage of these prisoners are simply there awaiting trial.

An open letter from dozens of concerned local community groups to Cook County calling for immediate decarceration of Cook County jail, the largest of its kind in the U.S.

Curtis Black, in the Chicago Reporter, reports:
Gov. J.B. Pritzker should act quickly to review the cases of elderly and infirm inmates in jails and prisons and provide medical furloughs or compassionate release to “as many of them as possible” in order to prevent a devastating outbreak of coronavirus in the prison system, according to a letter initiated by a prison educators group and signed by over 1,500 educators and health professionals.
They point out that prisons “are known incubators and amplifiers of infectious disease.” According to other advocates arguing for immediate steps, an outbreak of coronavirus would “cripple an already broken [prison health] system” and result in deaths of elderly inmates, who are particularly vulnerable to the virus.
Gov. Pritzker did what he felt he had to do yesterday when he ordered all state and CPS schools temporarily closed sending 2.2 million school children home for at least the next two weeks. Mayor Lori Lightfoot had pushed as long as she could to keep schools open as centers for delivering needed meals, healthcare and safe havens for children and families. Lightfoot said she was deeply worried about students whose parents can’t take off work and those who are dependent on breakfast and lunch at the school. About 76% of students in Chicago Public Schools are low income.

At her own news conference following Pritzker’s announcement, Lightfoot said the governor needed to consider the entire state’s needs and not just those of Chicago Public Schools. Though she insisted she and Pritzker were in “lockstep."

The temporary school closings were done only after a belated advisory was issued from the CDC authorizing local districts to temporarily close their schools. Until now, the CDC had advised that schools stay open and issued a set of guidelines for their operation during the crisis.

Here in Chicago, the closings were demanded by the CTU.

The state will view these as “act of God” days, meaning school personnel are expected to be paid during the next two weeks. The governor also waived the requirement that schools be in session for 180 days to receive state funding, meaning no district will lose tax dollars as a result of cancellations.

A plan has apparently been put in place to deliver food and other supports to children and families who are normally served by in-school programs. But I imagine that many teachers are still torn about once again being separated from their kids during this crisis.

Now Pritzker should follow Ohio and Washington state's lead and suspend statewide standardized testing.

A salute goes out to the heroic Chicago librarians and park district workers who are trying to fill the gap while putting themselves at risk, keeping libraries and park programs up and running during the school shutdown.

Nationally, Senate Democrats are expressing concern over the negative effects that K-12 school closings could have on students and families and demanding answers from Trump's Sec. of Education Betsy DeVos.
"In K-12 schools, many families rely on the Federal School Lunch Program and may experience food insecurity if they can no longer access meals at school," they explained.
"Few school districts have experience providing wide-scale educational services online for all students, and not all families have access to home computers and high-speed internet to take advantage of such online options. Online learning cannot substitute for a number of services provided in the school setting, and it raises particular challenges to ensuring equity in access to education for all students," they added.
All this while the Fed is about to bail out Wall Street with weekly injections of $1.5 trillion (with a T), to try and revive a crashing stock market. The next time you hear a politician tell you that we can't afford healthcare for all or abolishing student loan debt, tell them to go f**k themself.

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