• Casey Gallagher

Distance learning requires a universal basic income

I am not aligned with kids going back into schools during a pandemic, however I believe that any strike or general effort to support stay-at-home measures MUST be connected to a demand for Universal Basic Income or something of the like. Parents need to be able to AFFORD to stay at home safely with their children, or have the extra income to pay for alternative childcare if schools are closed.

I am a charter school parent and I’m unhappy with the initial plan that Paul Cuffee Schools put out a few days ago. They are proposing both in-school and distance learning options, but distance learning kids are expected to be learning alongside their classmates all day long. This essentially forces parents to have to monitor their children’s learning full time. As the parent of an incoming First Grader, it was nearly impossible to get him to sit for half hour chunks of time last year, and I cannot imagine him sitting through six hours of a distance learning school day. In addition to that, most parents and caregivers cannot do this for a wide variety of reasons, including having multiple children to care for; not being trained educators; struggling with the educational content themselves; mental/emotional health issues, disabilities and/or chronic health issues; and/or trying to work from home and educate their children.

While there is a wide range of parents out there who can have some flexibility and choice in determining what is best for their family during this time, there are so many other families who have to choose between work, and paying for rent or putting food on their table. If they cannot put their child in school this Fall, these parents will suffer extreme financial consequences. We are already seeing so many families struggle in this state. The school closures are not only going to widen the education gap, but they will significantly widen the financial gap in this state. Our essential workers and lowest paid workers are not seeking “babysitters,” as some teachers might say, but these caregivers literally cannot afford to leave their jobs without an alternative financial solution, like Universal Basic Income (even if this is short term, until we have a vaccine).

At the end of the day, we know that Black and brown, undocumented, medically compromised, disabled, neurodiverse and folx with mental health needs will suffer the most health consequences if we reopen; and they will suffer the most economically if we move to a plan where all students remain home and Distance Learn. We need to tie our demands for Safe Schools with a demand for UBI. We cannot ask for one and ignore the other. That is white supremacy in action.

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