President Trump signed an executive order on Dec. 28 to allocate federal funds for students to have in-person education options as schools have been closed due to the pandemic.
The order asserts that school closures have hard-hit low-income families and those with children with special needs. While high-income families have reduced this impact by using alternative teaching methods, these families with tighter budgets are dependent on their district schools.
“While some families, especially those with financial means, have been able to mitigate school disruptions through in-person options such as homeschooling, private schools, charter schools, and innovative models like micro-schools and “learning pods,” the president noted.
“The prolonged deprivation of in-person learning opportunities has produced undeniably dire consequences for the children of this country,” the president wrote, explaining that not being able to attend school also leads to problems of depression and increases the risk of abuse of various kinds.
According to former White House medical advisor Dr. Scott Atlas, mental health problems in children and adolescents increased by up to 30% during the pandemic.
The executive order states that “a recent survey of educators found student absences from school, including virtual learning, have nearly doubled during the pandemic,” and “chronic absenteeism is associated with alcohol and drug use, teenage pregnancy, juvenile delinquency, and suicide attempts.”
Dr. John Whyte, the chief medical officer of the healthcare website WebMD, said, “Many parents are reporting behavioral issues that previously their children had not exhibited. This is most likely a result of the loneliness, anxiety, and anger that many children are experiencing” during the confinement.
To replace in-person teaching, many schools and teachers turned to virtual teaching. But Trump noted that this method is not working well.
“Virtual instruction is an inadequate substitute for in-person learning opportunities, and this aid is insufficient to meet current needs,” Trump said.
The President stressed that families with special needs children have also been severely impacted because they need specific therapies and care that their parents cannot provide.
Therefore, the President directed the Secretary of Health and Human Services to use the “Community Services Block Grant program” to allocate funds to “provide emergency learning scholarships to disadvantaged families for use by any child without access to in-person learning.”
The funds will be used for tuition and fees for a private or parochial school, homeschool, micro-school, learning-pod costs, special education, and related services, including therapies, tutoring, or remedial education.