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Pandemic Accelerants: The Time Is Right For Change.

Posted on | March 8, 2021 | No Comments

Mike Magee

 “…quietly below the surface, there are transformational forces underway fueled by pandemic accelerants.”  THCB Gang, March 4, 2021.

Change on a societal scale promotes opposing forces – fear and retrenchment battles innovation and exploration. As we’ve witnessed in Washington, the clash can be epic and violent with Democracy itself at stake.

Resolution sometimes involves compromise, other times brute power. That is pretty much where the Democrats and President Biden found themselves this week as they passed an historic $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan on a 50-49 vote in the Senate. The “pandemic accelerant” here was massive public support for the bill, including 77% of all voters and 59% of Republican voters.

Buried inside the bill was a range of funding for health care, and as important, for the social determinants of health care. For example, $125 billion in new federal funding for K-12 education, was added to the already committed $67 billion, for a total new funding of $192 billion or an additional infusion of $2,600 per K-12 student.

Paralysis of our public education system has had a profound impact on our physical, emotional and financial health. It has also demanded sacrifice, teamwork, empowerment, and momentum. A quick Education Week review of the past year helps explain why.

Jan. 29, 2020: 1st mention of possible need for pandemic safety in schools.

Feb.15, 2020: Temporary school closures in Washington and New York.

Feb. 25, 2020:  A CDC warning for schools.

March 5, 2020:  A move toward distance learning begins.

March 11, 2020:  WHO declares pandemic.

March 12, 2020:  Gov. DeWine closes Ohio schools.

March 16, 2020:  Schools now closed in 27 states.

March 17, 2020:  Kansas annouces closure of schools for the year.

March 25, 2020:  All US public school buildings closed.(Idaho is the last to go.)

May 6, 2020:  Nearly all states now close schools for the year.

May 19, 2020:  Teacher morale and student mental health surface as issues.

May 25, 2020:  Addressing the George Floyd murder remotely becomes an emotional challenge for teachers and students.

June 15, 2020:  Studies expose a “digital divide” between poor and rich students to broadband and computer devices.

July 28, 2020:  In a virtual town hall, Dr. Fauci tells teachers they are “part of the experiment.” Teachers union threatens to strike if “forced” to return.

September 15, 2020:  74% of the 100 largest school districts chose remote learning only for over 9 million students.

September 23, 2020:  400 educators have died from Covid-19.

October 15, 2020:  Majority of schools now embrace hybrid learning model.

November 2, 2020:  Research supports safe school opening with precautions and testing.

November 7, 2020:  Joe Biden elected President. He declares, “Everyone wants our schools to reopen. The question is how to make it safe, how to make it stick. Forcing educators and students back into the classroom in areas where the infection rate is going up or remaining very high is just plain dangerous.”

December 11, 2020: The first emergency authorization of a vaccine for Covid-19.

January 6, 2021: The insurrection at the Capitol.

January 7, 2021: U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos resigns.

January 20, 2021: President Joe Biden inaugurated.

February 7, 2021: Chicago Teachers Union agrees to reopen schools.

February 9, 2021: 1/5th of teachers vaccinated; another 1/5 scheduled. 70% state they will be vaccinated.

February 21, 2021: CDC Director Rochelle Walensky states, “I want to underscore that the safest way to open schools is to ensure that there is as little disease as possible in the community. Thus, enabling schools to open and remain open is a shared responsibility.”

March 1, 2021. New U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardonais a champion of safe school reopening. 856 retired and active public schools teachers have died from Covid-19.

March 2, 2021: President Biden directs states to prioritize vaccinating teachers.

From the beginning of the pandemic, the nation’s school house has been in play. This unique tragedy has now claimed over a half million American lives, and carried with it economic devastation for many million more. The elimination of in-person schooling has also profoundly disrupted the labor market.

But after all we have been through over the past year,  the majority of parents surveyed feel going back to the way things were would be short-sighted. They find themselves in the camp of health reformers who seek something more ambitious and transformational.

The same holds true for other social systems that impact societal health, equity and fairness – like safety and security, transportation, the environment and housing. Americans fear slipping back into the status-quo, and missing this moment of opportunity.

Few have access to an expert in the field of Advocacy. I am fortunate to have a son, Marc Porter Magee, PhD, a sociologist and Director of Advocacy Labs at Georgetown University. Here are a few of his insights from “Insights Into Effective Advocacy From The Nation’s Leading Experts”:

Momentum:  “The hardest changes to secure are the modest ones. There is a natural friction to policy change, like trying to push an object across a table. Once you apply enough force to get it off its resting place, it is more likely to travel a foot than an inch.”

Empowerment:  “The powerful aren’t as powerful as you think. It seems logical to assume that the advocacy efforts of the powerful should succeed more often than those with less power, but this isn’t true. When it comes to seeking a policy change, powerful groups are no more likely to win than any other group.”

Teamwork:  “The most effective lobbying doesn’t look like lobbying. Arm-twisting, raised voices or threats rarely get results. Instead, most change happens when policy makers and outside advocates see themselves as members of the same team.”

Sacrifice:  “If you want people to stay involved, ask them to sacrifice. It’s natural to think that the best way to keep people involved in your cause is to make it easy for them to take action. However, it is the very act of sacrifice that generates a long-term, personal commitment to the cause.”

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