Recently, a wealthy California liberal told me he did not understand why I cared about school closures, since my wife and I do not have school-age children.
The perfidy of this comment is breathtaking.
We are all taxpayers, for one, and shouldn’t we care about our country’s future?
Moreover, I’ve been in the game. I taught five years in one of the poorest parts of Los Angeles, at a 100% minority school, where unions were the strongest. I suffered blackballing due to my education reform editorials, and afterwards, I published a book. Even though I moved on to happier locales 15 years ago and launched a journalism career, I’m saddened that union malfeasance and lack of compassion are more destructive than ever.
I’ll never stop caring about facts.
Earlier this month, CDC research pointed to a study of 17 Wisconsin schools where, after taking basic mitigation measures, “COVID-19 incidence was lower in schools than in the community.”
In the last two weeks of January, the national COVID case rate among students attending in-person school was 0.4% and, among staff, 0.8%. In the same period, the community case rate was over 10%.
Some day, historians will cry, realizing teachers unions refused to do their jobs when members are safer in school than the average worker, and there’s no scientific evidence supporting continued school closures.
Instead of pushing back on teachers unions ruining kids’ lives, President Joe Biden waffles and seems to believe his $1.9- trillion COVID relief package, which includes another whopping $130 billion ransom note for schools, is more urgent.
Schools never spent their first bailout money, and the new funding will reportedly be spent from 2022-28, not this year.
Biden is covering for teachers unions — which run his Democrat Party — rather than pushing back, which is what a leader should do, especially one who promised to unify the country.
And just like the bluest states, school closures have widened the income inequality gap. Wealthier parents, like my friend, can send their kids to private schools, hire tutors or stay home. Those lacking choices are crushed, while teachers enjoy fat paychecks and 99% employment. Teachers in the richest school districts, perhaps unsurprisingly, are most opposed to returning to work.
This criminality has long-term consequences.
A recent Yale University study found that a year of school closures “will cost ninth graders in the poorest communities a 25% decrease in their post-educational earning potential.”
There is also a roughly 30% increase in hospitalizations for mental health-related visits for children under 17 compared to last year.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, like many Republican leaders during the crisis, has been intrepid and successful. The vast majority of Hawkeye State school districts have had kids in the classroom safely since the fall.
“In our largest school districts across the state, teachers unions were winning out, and we had kids that hadn’t been in a classroom since August,” she told AEI’s podcast Wednesday. “Finally, we did listening sessions with parents, students, and educators all across the state, so, it was really driven from the grassroots. They organized. They got on a website. They communicated, coordinated. The stories that I heard were heartbreaking, and just unconscionable to be quite honest. There was no rigor in the online classes.”
Reynolds followed the data and last month demanded a bill on her desk with an option for 100% classroom instruction. The requirements went into effect last week.
“If we don’t take advantage of this moment and the data that we have been handed, and the data that we’re going to see moving forward, then shame on us,” Reynolds added. “We need to give parents control of their children’s education, bottom line.”
As a former teacher, I’d remind my Los Angeles friend — who sends his daughter to private school while hypocritically lauding public schools — we need to put power back in the hands of parents and away from the teachers unions.
Would he disagree?