But as Lori Lightfoot, the mayor of Chicago, put it last week, when she announced that all school instruction in her city will be remote at least until November, we have now moved to “a very different place in the arc of the pandemic.” Los Angeles, San Diego, Miami-Dade, Philadelphia, and Houston made similar decisions. In some places, sufficient groundwork simply hasn’t been done. In New York City, which has more than a million students, the virus has ebbed, but Mayor Bill de Blasio has offered an inept plan that relies on staff and equipment that don’t exist and that the city has no plans to pay for, all to give children in-person instruction only one to three days a week. Michael Mulgrew, the head of the United Federation of Teachers, has said that the city’s safety standards are “not enough.”…

This spring, “remote instruction” was often a euphemism for “no instruction.” For some children, it involved little more than intermittently watching a screen. Others didn’t even have a screen to watch; in Los Angeles alone, a quarter of a million households with school-age children lacked a computer with broadband. Even if a home has a digital device, it may be shared by more than one student and by parents working remotely. Attempts to insure that students have what they need to learn have been patchy; as with so many things related to the pandemic, the money isn’t there. Many school systems, including New York City’s, have had their budgets cut. Democrats in Congress have proposed more than four hundred billion dollars in aid to public schools as part of the second pandemic relief bill, while Republicans have sought only a fraction of that.