National parents group sends Cardona list of COVID-related demands, asks for transparency on federal spending

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A national parents group is asking the Biden administration to consider a series of measures designed to better prepare for pandemics like the coronavirus, as well as provide greater transparency into how federal relief dollars have been spent.

A letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona argues that dereliction of leadership at the national, state and local levels of government has created “disastrous effects” for parents and students. National Parents Union President Keri Rodrigues suggested Cardona had failed to follow up on a March 2021 letter in which he indicated that changes were coming for the nation’s schools.

“Now 10 months later, with more than $120 billion in relief funding given to schools for ventilation and social distancing in classrooms and coronavirus testing, parents are forced to make impossible decisions as school districts across the country delay a return to in-person learning,” Rodrigues said.

Miguel Cardona speaks after President-elect Biden announced him as his nominee for education secretary at the Queen theater Dec. 23, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. (Joshua Roberts/Getty Images)

“Instead of making smart choices and developing contingency plans for both predictable and unforeseen challenges that will continue to face us in the midst of an ongoing pandemic, our American education system continues to cling to a reactive rather than proactive mindset that is once again putting additional strain on American families.”

The letter goes on to ask Cardona to make good on a long list of recommendations for school districts to help students and parents. For example, one requests plans for testing supplies for upcoming breaks in February and April. 

Another asks for a recommendation that districts “[a]llocate funding for schools to take full responsibility of repairing or replacing overused, outdated or broken tech devices so students can readily access resources should a switch to temporary remote learning become necessary.”

It also asks the education department to hold hearings “for oversight around the $200 billion dollars in federal resources already allocated to America’s schools for COVID-19 mitigation strategies, PPE [Personal Protective Equipment], HVAC updates, testing, social distancing and getting kids back into classrooms safely.”

President Biden speaks during a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., Jan. 19, 2022. (Oliver Contreras/Sipa/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

On Tuesday, the department announced that it had distributed all American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds and announced that all 52 state education agency plans had been approved.

In this Jan. 28, 2020, file photo, Connecticut State Commissioner of Education Miguel Cardona speaks with Berlin High School students while on a tour of the school. (Devin Leith-Yessian/Berlin Citizen/Record-Journal via AP)

“Parents absolutely play a critical role in their children’s education,” an education department spokesperson told Fox News Wednesday in response to the letter. “The secretary has often said parents are children’s first and most important teachers. In that vein, the department made parent engagement a priority since the beginning of this administration and will continue to do so as we recover from the pandemic and beyond.

“A key requirement of the American Rescue Plan is that states and districts conduct meaningful stakeholder engagement on how to use these funds — and we’ve made clear that parents should absolutely have a seat at the table in those conversations, so their and their children’s experiences can inform how that money is spent. We’ve also taken what we’ve heard from parents across the country to inform our work at the department, such as by working with administration partners to ensure schools have access to COVID-19 tests, providing flexibility and guidance to districts to address transportation issues, ensuring students are provided enriching summer learning opportunities funded by the American Rescue Plan and that schools are using ARP funds to address the mental health needs and instructional needs of all students.”

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