The Corner

Politics & Policy

Biden Budget Asks for $1 Billion to Deal with Mental-Health Toll of School Closures

President Joe Biden (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

Since taking office, President Biden has repeatedly acquiesced to the teachers’ unions when it comes to school closures.

Now, his budget request for fiscal 2022 is calling for an additional $1 billion in funding to deal with the predictable mental health consequences:

Prioritizes the Physical and Mental Well-Being of Students. COVID-19 pandemic disruptions and school closings continue to take a toll on the physical and mental health of students, teachers, and school staff. Recognizing the profound effect of physical and mental health on academic achievement, the discretionary request provides $1 billion, in addition to the resources in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, to increase the number of counselors, nurses, and mental health professionals in schools. In addition, it provides $430 million for Full Service Community Schools, which play a critical role in providing comprehensive wrap-around services to students and their families, from afterschool, to adult education opportunities, and health and nutrition services.

You know what would prioritize the mental well-being of students? Opening the damn schools. Instead, Biden has repeatedly scaled back back his pledge to reopen schools for in-person learning in his first 100 days. While ultimately school reopenings are a matter for local governments, Biden has set the tone up top by deferring to unions, insisting, “They just want to work in a safe environment.” He has stood by them as they continue to move the goal posts on reopening. They have balked at reopening even after leapfrogging to the front of the vaccination line and even after Biden funneled $128 billion to K–12 in his coronavirus relief package. CDC was also pressured into issuing guidance that has made reopening schools more difficult in the face of overwhelming evidence that schools are safe.

For Biden to now swoop in after the damage that has been done and act as if $1 billion amounts to prioritizing the well-being of students is infuriating.

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