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Continuing online learning could put working parents in a bind if schools opt to stay partially remote during next school year, which Maryland is considering. The state may bring students back only one to two days a week or alternate between being online and in-person each week.
"That sets up families for a lot of impossible choices, choices that are felt most among families that are low-income," Katherine Gallagher Robbins, child care and early education director at The Center for Law and Social Policy, told FOX Business.
Coronavirus will only make it harder for childcare facilities, many of which are still closed, to operate as they deal with strict hygiene guidelines and rising costs that could be passed on to parents.
"That's going to force some parents out of work, mostly women who want to be in the workforce, because we know when childcare is unavailable mostly women end up staying home," Robbins said.
The CARES Act that passed in March gave a supplemental $3.5 billion to the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), which is the main source of federal funding to subsidize childcare for low-income families. The House Democrats' HEROES Act includes $7 billion for CCDBG, but the bill is not expected to pass the Republican-controlled Senate.
If parents have to deal with going back to work, closed schools and less childcare options, those billions won't be enough, Robbins said.
"The current iteration of the bill has $7 billion for childcare, which sounds like a lot of money, but it’s not the nearly $10 billion per month that we need to keep childcare whole during this time," she said.
The HEROES Act would also create a $90 billion State Fiscal Stabilization Fund to help with education. But more money doesn't necessarily mean better results for students, Rick Hess, the American Enterprise Insititute's education policy studies director, told FOX Business.
"The U.S. spends a lot on education," he said. "We spend about as much as any nation in the world. ... School districts have spent a lot of money on tech in schools but have not chosen how to make sure kids are connected to do work out of school."
Online learning can be effective when coupled with in-person teaching, especially for older students, but it's far from most parents' ideal situation, Hess said. But not all students have access to devices or even reliable internet connections.
"The reality is getting kids in school for half a day or two or three days a week is a lot better for parents than not getting them in school at all," he said.