The COVID-19 crisis is impacting everything from how we wash our hands and buy groceries to how we educate students who are no longer sitting at desks and “doing school.” When we get past this pandemic, we will enter a new world order — especially regarding education. COVID-19 will change the way preschool through college education is delivered and structured. We will not eliminate classrooms and teacher lectures, but we will have to think differently and harder about maximizing human talent. To deal with complex, all-encompassing problems such as the coronavirus, we need talented and intellectually gifted people: smart and clinically sophisticated doctors, for sure, but also a wide array of supporting cast members — nurses, respiratory therapists, manufacturers who can produce masks, face shields and myriad forms of PPE. Those needs are simply the tip of the COVID-19 support chain iceberg. This talent is not found in one community or one demographic group. Success stories over the last several weeks illustrate talent comes from all zip codes, all racial and all ethnic backgrounds. That’s why ensuring equity in education is an even more significant issue as we go forward.
Dealing with unequal opportunity will be just as important as finding the right vaccine for COVID-19 or developing effective therapies for mitigating the virus. The impact of the pandemic on our communities and our nation has been immediate — and socially and economically tragic. The impact of inequality of opportunity is also devastating. Its fallout is long-term and impacts so many in and around Dayton for their entire lives.
One response to educational inequity is to deny all opportunity.
That’s happening in Philadelphia.
The superintendent of the Philadelphia schools closed down all remote instruction because virtual access was not available to all students. In his words: “If that’s (remote instruction) not available to all children, we cannot make it available to some.”
Some might argue that this thinking is fair. But denying access to all, over time, will hurt us all. Our response in Dayton and Montgomery County must be to ensure access and equity, especially for our kids.
Our schools and colleges, education and policy leaders, are stepping up to that work in so many ways. They’re refusing to make a Sophie’s Choice. For example:
■ The Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission has brought together stakeholders to tackle issues ranging from historic underrepresentation to redlining and forced segregation. This group is focused on systemic solutions to systemic problems. ■ An expanding cadre of “Equity Fellows” is being trained to work in schools and community organizations. These fellows are working with colleagues to identify disparities in student outcomes and taking action to address them. ■ A growing number of community partners — from employers to colleges to libraries — are independently and collectively focusing on ensuring equity in all of their policies and practices.