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EDITORIAL: Helping at-risk students thrive

Patrick DeLany
York Dispatch
Gov. Tom Wolf talks with a group during his press conference at PA CareerLink in York Tuesday, July 28, 2020. Wolf was highlighting the importance of job-finding resources in light of the unemployment cause by the COVID-19 outbreak in the state. Bill Kalina photo

Thumbs up to an infusion of financial aid for local students facing racial and economic challenges to learning — on top of the demands created by the coronavirus pandemic.

Gov. Tom Wolf last week announced that some $17 million in emergency funds — including almost $400,000 to York County school districts — will be allocated for historically underserved students.

The assistance, coming on top of statewide funding boosts intended to help schools navigate costly coronavirus challenges, is an acknowledgment that the ongoing pandemic hits some students harder than others.

“COVID-19 response efforts, including building closures, are likely to exacerbate outcome gaps for historically underserved students,” noted Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Pedro A. Rivera.

The state aid will enable schools to put programs in place to help minimize these gaps. Local schools in the Central York, Dover Area, Red Lion Area and York City school districts, as well as in Lincoln Intermediate Unit 12, which serves York, Franklin and Adams counties, will benefit.

It’s important that the educational needs of students with special challenges aren’t overshadowed by urgent and widespread coronavirus-related considerations.

Thumbs down, speaking of the coronavirus, to a worrisome increase in local COVID-19 cases throughout York County and, especially, in the city.

August saw the highest rate of daily COVID-19 cases in York County since the pandemic’s outbreak in March — a 50 percent increase over the previous record month of July.

York College President Pamela Gunter-Smith and Dr. Matt Howie, director of the York City Medical Bureau, are just two of the local officials who are raising concerns about the area’s infection rate — and the irresponsible behavior that can help propel it.

College officials, for instance, are taking aim at student parties and other high-density gatherings where mask-wearing and social-distancing have been lax.

Such behavior may be behind York County nosing into the top 10 counties in the state for the spread of COVID-19. That uptick couldn’t come at a worse time, what with many local schools open or preparing to reopen in the coming weeks.

For schools to operate successfully it’s going to require all of us — students, teachers and parents; in the workplace and in public — to diligently follow all public-health guidelines.

Thumbs down to U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, who, characteristically but no less disappointingly, is arguing that the U.S. Postal Service doesn’t need any additional funding as it gears up for a presidential election in which the use of mail-in ballots is projected to spike thanks to the pandemic.

Perry hasn’t exactly been the most helpful public servant during the unprecedented public-health crisis. He made the scientifically sketchy claim earlier this summer that “young children are not transmission vectors, so people aren’t getting coronavirus from their kids, generally speaking.” And don’t forget, Perry’s was one of the few dissenting votes when the House passed a pandemic preparedness measure in December 2018 by a margin of 367-9.

Now he’s pooh-poohing the wisdom of taking all necessary precautions to protect voters’ rights while safeguarding the public health.

Perry argues that, “from a revenue standpoint,” the postal service is in good shape. He chalks up calls for assistance to partisan posturing.

First off, it’s not the Postal Corporation, it’s the Postal Service -- designed to provide an important public function rather than to turn a profit. The emergency funds being requested are to ensure it can fill its role this fall safely and effectively, not to shore up its bottom line.

And second, if there’s partisan posturing, it’s coming from Perry’s party and its leader in the White House, who has done everything in his considerable power to disparage and discourage voting by mail.

It is to be hoped that, much as with that 2018 pandemic preparation vote, Perry’s voice will be decidedly in the minority when it comes to ensuring safe and timely mail-in balloting this fall.