Latest Posts





School is back in session around the world, but U.S. still contemplating reopening

I previously wrote about three different scenarios the Minnesota Department of Education is weighing regarding what back to school will look like for students this fall.

One option is that students do not return to school buildings at all.

And while other states are also considering this possibility, schools around the world are already back to school, even in European nations that had higher fatality rates from COVID-19 than the U.S. And they did so with far less per pupil spending available than the U.S.

According to Frederick Hess with the American Enterprise Institute, the United States’ reluctance to reopen is driven by “American education elites playing a game of chicken with state and federal lawmakers” over spending. The U.S. spends roughly $14,000 per student on average—thousands more than nations who have already reopened.

Seeking additional aid is understandable, Hess points out, given there are safety expenses involved in reopening, such as personal protective equipment for teachers and rigorous school sanitization, but he is not convinced the recent calls for more money in the name of student safety will actually result in student safety.

After all, as the CDC has reported, just 14 of the first 69,000 COVID deaths were children under the age of 14. Every one of these deaths is a tragedy, but that realization means we must also weigh the risks of keeping 50 million children home for months on end. Even setting aside lost learning and the emotional devastation of school closures, locales around the country are reporting huge increases in calls to crisis hotlines and substantial decreases in child abuse reports (not because abuse is actually declining, but because kids aren’t in contact with adults who typically report abuse—teachers, doctors, and police).

Education advocates have pointed to Israel, which has seen new outbreaks following school re-openings, as an illustration of the risks of re-opening. At the same time, other countries have re-opened and seen no spike in cases around schools. Until there’s a vaccine, every decision relating to COVID will require balancing risks. But the risks of re-opening must be balanced against those of staying closed.

Hess is by no means arguing that reopening schools will be easy, but that the U.S. should be able to figure it out given we have more time to plan and more money to work with.

…[I]f France is already doing it for $9,500 per pupil, U.S. school leaders should be able to do better with months to plan and thousands more per pupil at their disposal.

If our education leaders aren’t up for the challenge, Hess continues, “lawmakers should give parents the chance to do better by giving them the resources set aside to educate the nation’s youth.” As I discuss here, one way to do that is through emergency education savings accounts (ESAs). Not only are ESAs a targeted solution that would help address budget concerns without asking for spending increases, they also could be used to ensure students can continue learning safely.




Upcoming Events

  • Morning in Minnesota: St. Cloud

    Location: St. Cloud

    Sign up HERE! Courtyard by Marriott St. Cloud 404 West Saint Germain Street St. Cloud, MN, 56301 Please join Center of the American Experiment on Tuesday, July 21 for breakfast with Center policy fellow and education expert Catrin Wigfall as she explains K-12 education in the state and its persistent disparities despite decades of increased spending. Following her presentation, Catrin will lead a Q&A session. 7:30 AM Check In and Breakfast 8:00 AM Presentation 9:00 AM Conclude   Catrin Wigfall is a Policy Fellow at Center of the American Experiment. She is also the director of EducatedTeachersMN and EmployeeFreedomMN. Catrin’s…

    Register Now
  • Kristi Noem: The Courage to Reject a Shutdown

    Location: Online

    Sign up HERE! Join us Wednesday, July 8th for an interview with South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem over Zoom. In response to COVID-19, Noem defied the norm of a statewide shutdown and let South Dakotans choose for themselves what safety precautions to take. Tune in to this live online event to hear how Governor Noem preserved her state’s economy while still keeping citizens safe. Wednesday, July 8th at Noon CT Sign up HERE!  

    Register Now
  • Morning in Minnesota: Marshall

    Location: Marshall Golf Club

      Sign up for this event HERE! Please join Center of the American Experiment on Thursday, July 16 at Marshall Golf Club for a breakfast with Center economist, John Phelan, as he discusses Minnesota’s economic future. Following his presentation, John will lead a Q&A session. 7:30 AM Check In and Breakfast 8:00 AM Presentation 9:00 AM Conclude John Phelan is a graduate of Birkbeck College, University of London, where he earned a BSc in Economics, and of the London School of Economics where he earned an MSc. He worked in finance for ten years before becoming a professional economist. He…

    Register Now