Kaufman: Southern California Schools Lock Out Vulnerable Students

In our state’s largest city, the murder rate is nearing record levels with police officers fleeing due to urban mayhem. Want more chaos? Keep the schools closed and let teenagers roam the streets for six more months.

AJ Kaufman

In a gutless and heartless move, almost 1 million children were informed Monday afternoon they cannot return to school for at almost six more months. 

California’s two largest public school districts — San Diego, where I was a student for 12 years; and Los Angeles, where I taught for five —  said that instruction will be remote-only this fall.

These cowardly districts are the largest so far to abandon plans for even a partial physical return to classrooms; no doubt other districts will follow. As they have for four long months, teachers will continue to sit home and receive paychecks and unmatched benefits, courtesy of hardworking taxpayers. New property-tax-increase-funded schools, however, shall remain closed.

Much of this, sadly, is ideological showmanship. The union wants to defund police and abolish charter schools before any teacher returns to work. That’ll make students less safe, less free and more ignorant.

This comes after the duplicitous union representing Los Angeles Unified School District teachers (I have personal experience with their chicanery), announced that 83% of its “members” voted to lock children out. So much for the “teachers want to go back” refrain we often hear. I reached out to two former teaching colleagues and both sounded ebullient.

“Science is our guide,” a skittish LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner said. “The health and safety of all in the school community is not something we can compromise.”

But science is not on your side, sir.

Over 99 % of those infected face no major health problems. And children especially have no significant maladies with the infection. Children under 18 make up 5% of U.S. cases, and those children are just 0.03 % of deaths. 

In Switzerland, the country’s head of infectious disease said, “scientists now know young children don’t transmit the virus.”

As I wrote Saturday, countless other countries — even when you account for population and testing rate differentials — reopened schools months ago with no outbreak issues.

Parents are rightfully irate. Almost one-third say their child’s mental health is suffering. Another third worry it’ll start hurting their children soon, as well as future life prospects.

Evidence long ago piled up that remote learning doesn’t work, especially for poor families, including those in rural areas with unreliable internet. Children who are the most vulnerable continue to suffer the most under school closures. 

When I taught in LAUSD, 100 %of my students received free lunches, after-school care, and very few had two parents. Among the 800,000 current students in Los Angeles, over 80 % live below the poverty level. Surveys showed more than half their parents lost a job due to the pandemic. Did any stay-at-home teachers? The trough never emptied. Yet only 17 % wanted to help poor families by allowing kids to return to the safety of schools.

There is also the economic impact. If kids can’t go to school, many parents can’t go to work. A farming family from Browns Valley, in western Minnesota, recently explained:

“The really big question mark right now is whether there’ll be school here this fall. Because harvest season is all hands on deck. That would be really, really difficult to manage both kids with no child care.”

The average age of a U.S. schoolteacher is 42 with almost 85% below age 55. Five in six American teachers are outside of the high-risk group for both mortality and ICU admission. Most retire before age 60.

As Libby Emmons opined Monday morning at the Federalist:

“We are so cowed with fear by the unknown potential of this virus that we are willing to sacrifice everything in service to its eradication, which is not even remotely guaranteed. If our nation plunges into chaos at the hands of a generation of people who know nothing about math, science, civics, history, or literature, who get their information from endless YouTube gaming videos, it will not be the fault of the pandemic, but our own. Those same leftists out in the streets demanding equity and equality are claiming that it’s too dangerous to open schools. Taking away the right to education for America’s youth will not result in equity or equality.”

In our state’s largest city, the murder rate is nearing record levels with police officers fleeing due to urban mayhem. Want more chaos? Keep the schools closed and let teenagers roam the streets for six more months. Hopefully our state’s politicians and the dogmatists at Education Minnesota are wiser than Californians.