By Jeff Todd

DENVER (CBS4) – With the future of education for many Colorado children from kindergarten to high school uncertain, concern is growing that inequity will increase in the state as education becomes fractured. Some parents are seeking other options outside of public school to get their kids more teaching than online learning can provide.

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“This is an imperfect situation. Everyone is struggling to make due within an imperfect situation,” said Dr. Kevin Welner, the National Education Policy Center Director and an Education Professor at the University of Colorado Boulder. “Our public schools are being asked to do more at a time when the funding is decreasing.”

On Tuesday, many Republican state legislators signed a letter asking Gov. Jared Polis for a special session. The letter asks for funding to be redirected to families.

“The funding would allow parents to remain at home, engage an educator, purchase quality curriculum and materials, and if necessary, the computers and broadband service to ensure access,” the letter states.

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“I don’t think a proposal that would reduce options and force the closure of some online schools and programs would in any way help in this situation,” Polis said in response.

As some parents look away from public school and toward alternatives like learning pods (a small group of students that gather to learn together), tutors or home schooling, inequity could ripple for years in Colorado, Welner says.

“I’m more concerned about the inequity than I am about the learning loss during the times when the schools are closed. Because there’s no God-given amount a student is supposed to learn when they’re 10 years old. We’ve structured that as a nation and as states with certain expectations and standards that we try to meet,” he said. “It’s always been with us, but it’s going to be exacerbated right now in a pretty extreme way.”

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As Welner survey’s the nationwide landscape, the NEPC has found parents, teachers, students and administrators have struggled with restarting school all over the country. Additional money from the federal government could be the only way to improve educational opportunities for all students.

“Lots of smart, really good people are doing their best to make it work, but the virus just doesn’t cooperate,” he said. “The quality of opportunity that they can provide, particularly given the remote or physical distancing that needs to be in place and the safety that needs to be in place; the resources are just not there for the public schools to serve the roll that we’ve asked them to serve.”

Jeff Todd

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