Education in a time of pandemic

Education in a time of pandemic

Higher education plays a critical role in upward mobility. College administrators worry that the closure of campuses due to COVID-19 will keep many low-income students from attaining a degree. For example, high-school seniors won’t get the hands-on help to fill out admission and financial aid applications, and students from low-income backgrounds may lack the means to return to campus.. Bianca Quilantan of Politico has more: 

The effects of these decisions could ripple across not just campuses but the U.S. for years to come. Students could be stuck in lower-paying jobs for the rest of their lives, lacking the financial boost brought by a four-year college degree. Requests for additional financial aid will ramp up, and colleges with their own financial struggles may not be able to meet the demand. Colleges could see the widening of an already existing gap between low- and high-income students entering their doors, and many are trying to make it easier for applicants whose lives are in chaos.

Big changes also are needed in K-12 schools. As school doors have closed and education has moved online, this has exposed the massive challenges faced by public school students from low-income families. Joy Okoro of Teach for America, in a letter to the Baton Rouge Advocate | The Times-Picayune, explains: 

Crisis moments such as these present the opportunity for real change: to break the ongoing pattern of inequity within our educational system. By no means is it easy, but it is possible. To create stability for students, we must move from an emergency response mode to establishing a new norm of distance learning. This allows us to adequately prepare teachers to continue students’ growth and achievement, as well as help ease the disruption to student learning as a whole.


Air pollution role and COVID-19
The parishes that make up the petrochemical corridor between New Orleans and Baton Rouge have some of the highest death rates from COVID-19 in the country. Residents of these majority-black communities want to know what role air pollution plays in the disparity, and are demanding answers from their elected officials. The Advocate| Times-Picayune’s Sara Sneath reports

The role of air pollution in the fatality rate of coronavirus gained attention last week when researchers with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health published a study that found a small increase in tiny particles of air pollution, called particulate matter, is associated with a 15% increase in COVID-19 fatalities. The study added to a growing body of research indicating that longterm exposure to particulate matter increases the risk of the most severe coronavirus outcomes, including death, said Dr. Mary Prunicki, director of air pollution and health research at Stanford Medicine.


Racism creates racial disparities
Black people in Louisiana are dying from coronavirus at much higher rates than their white counterparts, which prompted Gov. John Bel Edwards to create a health equity taskforce to study the underlying reasons for this disparity.. But Dr. Ibram Kendi at The American University writes in The Atlantic that racism is the root cause of  racial disparities in health.  

Over the past two weeks, each answer led to new questions. Should states be collecting racial data? Yes. Do those data show racial disparities? They do. And that led to the question Americans have been arguing over since the beginning of the republic: Why do racial disparities exist? Why are black people generally being infected and dying at higher rates than other racial groups? This is the question of the hour. And too many Americans are answering this new question in the old, familiar way. They are blaming poverty, but refusing to recognize how racism distinguishes black poverty from white poverty, and makes black poverty more vulnerable to a lethal contagion.


Playing politics with ballot access
The decision by some state Senate Republicans to block an emergency plan by Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin to expand absentee voting in the upcoming primary election drew a swift rebuke from the editorial board of The Baton Rouge Advocate | The Times-Picayune. The objections to the plan were based on groundless concerns about election “fraud” that have been debunked by numerous fact-checkers: 

All of these proposed changes are in line with recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control to prevent the deadly virus’ spread. They’re also the result of bipartisan negotiation aimed at protecting the sacred right to vote as well as the voters’ personal well-being. No Louisianan should ever have to choose between the two. And no Louisiana politician should put them in that position, particularly over trumped-up concerns that have no basis in fact.


Programming notes:
* LBP wants to know about the experiences of Louisiana workers who are trying to apply for unemployment benefits, in order to better inform our advocacy. Click here to complete our survey. 


Number of the Day
4,648% – The percent change in Louisiana of initial unemployment insurance claims from pre-virus period during the week ending on April 11  (Source: Economic Policy Institute)