My opponent, Andy Harris, recently did an interview with Newsmax in which he said “Let’s go ahead and get those children back in schools” and that he was a “strong advocate for opening up the schools five days a week.”
The thing is, I agree with him.
Our children should be able to go back to schools five days a week. They should be able to get back to learning in person and be participating in after-school programs this fall.
But they can’t.
Politicians like Harris want to make this out to be a two-sided issue, where one side believes kids need to go back to school and the other side wants to keep your kids from going back to school. It is not that simple. The issue is that we cannot simply send our kids and our teachers back to school in an enclosed environment for most of the day, five days a week because politicians like Andy Harris on up to the president have failed us.
First, they failed to take the virus seriously in the beginning. Numerous studies have stated that if we would have taken the same drastic steps that other European countries as well as our neighbor to the north took earlier than we could have beaten this virus and saved upwards of 36,000 lives.
But we allowed the disease to spread and spread while the president and his cohorts acted like it wasn’t a big deal and that it would “magically go away.”
Secondly, they turned a simple act of protecting others while wearing a mask into a partisan issue.
We all know that it took until just a week ago for the president to urge Americans to wear a mask. Andy Harris compared communities wearing masks to keep the virus from spreading to a “cult.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also recently stated that if everyone were mandated to wear masks when in public spaces, we could basically eradicate this virus within six to eight weeks.
Harris also participated and at one point led the “Re-Open Maryland” rally’s comparing Maryland’s shut down to flatten the curve to North Korea. It has been this sort of partisan politics that have fanned the flames of disbelief around the severity of the virus and discouraged people from doing their part in stopping its spread.
Lastly, our government has failed to prepare us to re-open schools safely.
If you look around the state offices for small businesses as well as large corporations remain empty. This is because these companies know the risk that they take financially if their employees get sick or the virus is spread from their businesses. They also know the cost to improve ventilation and to enforce CDC guidelines is just too high.
We all know school budgets are tight and there simply isn’t enough money or time to improve ventilation, re-configure classroom layouts, build up plastic barriers, etc.
My opponent and the president want to tie the money in the upcoming stimulus bill that goes to school upon their re-opening. This is simply the wrong way to go.
If we wanted schools to be able to be ready for children this fall, preparations should have been underway months ago with funds already distributed regardless of any plans on school re-opening.
Harris also made the argument in the Newsmax piece that students can’t learn virtually because they don’t have access to the technology they need to learn effectively. If we don’t tie money in the stimulus to re-opening, schools would have the resources to make sure every child I provided with what they need.
We all want our children to get back to school but they can’t in any normal way because we have been too busy trying to score political points to flatten the curve and prepare to deal with this crisis head-on.
Mia Mason is the Democratic candidate running for Maryland’s 1st District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives against incumbent republican Andy Harris.