Kaufman: Teachers union forces governor to lock most Minnesota students out

While Walz can dress up poll-tested terms like “matrix” and “hybrid,” that all schools aren’t fully reopening displays the educational complex’s power, ability to ignore science, and engage in unwarranted hysteria. 

A.J. Kaufman

Gov. Tim Walz offered a “Safe Learning Plan” Thursday afternoon to help Minnesota students and teachers finally return to classrooms. The former teacher calls it a “localized, data-driven approach.”

University of Minnesota Infectious Disease expert Michael Osterholm likes the plan’s “informed flexibility.” He believes some school districts can open in late August and said responses will differ by district and even by schools within the district.

As predictable as winter snowfall, Minneapolis schools signaled their dereliction of duty two days ago, and if prodigal demands aren’t met, national unions could strike against society

While Walz can dress up poll-tested terms like “matrix” and “hybrid,” that all schools aren’t fully reopening displays the educational complex’s power, ability to ignore science, and engage in unwarranted hysteria. 

Next door in South Dakota and elsewhere around the country, ordered liberty prevailed and schools open soon. Two dozen European nations welcomed students back months ago with no observable increase in COVID-19 infections; day care centers are open; the St. Paul Saints are coming home; and even 85% of universities  reopen soon.

Those under age 18 make up barely 5% of U.S. cases, and those children are just 0.03% of deaths. Because most retire to taxpayer-funded pensions before age 60, about 80% of schoolteachers are below age 50, well outside the high-risk group for mortality and ICU admission.

Most tellingly, there is yet to be a recorded case of a teacher catching coronavirus from a pupil anywhere in the world.

Death rates from COVID-19 across the U.S. have trended downward for months. In all but two of the last 40 days, Minnesota has seen single-digit deaths, most in nursing homes.

This pandemic doesn’t justify keeping nearly 60 million students — and a half million in our state — home any longer. We know children are less likely to become infected, less likely to spread the virus and rarely become seriously ill. They also recover quickly. If any place should reopen, it’s schools, since they pose little or no risk to children compared to leaving them at home. 

Closing schools has dire consequences. Child abuse, drug use, anxiety, boredom, mental anguish and social isolation have risen. Students with special needs are at significant risk. Remote learning failed, especially for the most vulnerable children. This debacle, where one-third of students didn’t even “log in” the entire spring, also exacerbates the achievement gap, allowing wealthier parents to work remotely and aid in so-called distance learning. And yet some schools want more of it?

My neighbor noted his kids “did maybe one hour of school work per day this spring and are falling behind. Substandard education isn’t sufficient. Our governor does what Education Minnesota says, no matter the cost to students and families.”

Surveys showed more than half the parents in large cities lost a job due to the pandemic. Teachers haven’t, and few want to allow students to return to the safety of schools. It’s time to be blunt about the greed and class warfare involved.

My friend, who’s an administrator of a private school, bemoaned: “I am tired of this group being considered spokesmen for education. They clearly do not, as a union, genuinely care about the students. They see and use them as pawns in their quest for more money, power and influence.”

Yes, teachers want “more money” as always. Republicans were ready to give them more than $100 billion in the next stimulus but Democrats walked away. We already spend over a trillion per year, yet our public schools are a global laughingstock? 

Schools had five long months to find a way to cautiously reopen. It’s embarrassing they failed to listen to recommendations or tailor their approach. Many campuses have large physical plants and could hold classes outside.

We’ve sacrificed for the common good each day of the pandemic. Teachers’ only reply is a caustic ‘do you want us to die’ straw man? That’s an emotional tantrum not grounded in reality. If we stopped paying teachers, they’d return.  

Not only are teacher salaries higher than the average American, for about 70% of the work days, but health insurance, pensions and vacation time stand out above all others. The last several months are the final nails in the mendacious “overworked, selfless and underpaid” canard. Many are taking six figure salaries to sit home and not contribute to the country. Apparently teachers need time at home “for the good of your children.” Astoundingly, 11% say they would “take a leave of absence if in-person classes resumed.” The truck driver or store owner can’t do the same. I bet some of the 50 million unemployed Americans would happily substitute for rapacious educators.

You cannot eliminate risk from life. Elites who never leave the apartment yet get paid may not understand, but to an ordinary man, 15 times more people unemployed than COVID cases and 430 times more unemployed than fatalities doesn’t add up. 

Freedom by its nature brings risk and reward. Let’s not allow fearmongering, misinformation and ideological politics to trump sensible human behavior, facts and our future.