Throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, numerous teachers’ unions have refused to return to the classroom, citing concerns about the potential for transmission, despite evidence that children were not a significant vector for spread.
In fact, an October study concluded that COVID-19 transmission rate on campuses was minuscule, with transmission between students being just 0.13%. That number climbed slightly higher to 0.24% for school staff. The study, according to The Daily Wire, was conducted with more than 200,000 K-12 students across 47 states.
Despite these findings, “virtual learning” continued as teachers and their unions resisted the calls to return to the classroom. We were told teachers and faculty would feel much more comfortable once COVID-19 vaccines were widely distributed and a majority of students and staff were vaccinated.
However, in February, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that it was possible for students and teachers to return to the classroom without educators being vaccinated.
“The CDC team reviewed data from studies in the United States and abroad and found the experience in schools differed from nursing homes and high-density work sites where rapid spread has occurred,” The Washington Post reported at the time. “The review, which echoes the conclusions of other researchers, comes as many school districts continue to wrestle with whether and how to reopen schools and as President Biden makes a return to in-person learning one of his top pandemic-related priorities.”
Even though CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said she is “a strong advocate of teachers receiving their vaccinations,” she also indicated researchers “don’t believe it’s a prerequisite for reopening schools,” The Daily Wire reported. She did, however, say “universal masking” was necessary.
But now, COVID-19 vaccines are being widely distributed and trials are being conducted on children as young as five. This begs the question: At what point will teachers and their unions feel it is now “safe” enough to return to the classroom?
However, throughout the pandemic, teachers’ unions have moved the goalposts regarding the reopening of schools. Here are just a few examples of teachers’ unions putting their own objectives above “the science”:
July 2020: Los Angeles teachers refused to return to the classroom unless their political demands were met.
Last summer, the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) refused to return to the classroom unless various levels of government listened to their demands, including those unrelated to the pandemic or schools.
According to Townhall, among the union’s demands was that the federal government implement “Medicare for All.”
“The boundless greed of the for-profit health industry, combined with this country’s deeply ingrained racism, has led to race-based health disparities that have resulted in excess deaths especially among Black communities long before the pandemic further widened the health gap,” the union wrote.
The teachers’ union called on California to pass an annual 1% capital gains tax on the wealthy as well as a 1% “surtax” on those making $1 million or more. For those making $3 million or more, the proposed tax would jump to 3%.
On the local level, UTLA wanted police to be defunded and a moratorium on charter schools to be implemented.
“Police violence is a leading cause of death and trauma for Black people, and is a serious public health and moral issue,” the union wrote. “We must shift the astronomical amount of money devoted to policing, to education and other essential needs such as housing and public health.”
According to the teachers, “Privately operated, publicly funded charter schools drain resources from district schools — and many have ‘double-dipped’ during this crisis by taking federal small business bailout loans even though state funding did not decline this school year.”
The UTLA also wanted local governments to provide “financial support” for illegal immigrants and their families.
“Even if their children are U.S. citizens, in the era of ICE raids and mass deportations, many undocumented parents are too fearful to apply for benefits for their children,” the union stated in their demands.
January 2021: Chicago Teachers Union head went on an international vacation but had “safety” concerns about returning to the classroom.
As The Daily Wire previously reported, Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) Regional Vice President Sarah Chambers rallied special education teachers to refuse to return to the classroom after Christmas break last year. The union’s primary concern with the district’s HVAC system, which includes air filtration.
“This is the most difficult time. Transmission is highest. It’s dark and cold. People are indoors and the holidays are coming, so there’s going to be a lot of transmission,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said, according to WGN-TV.
Chambers refused to return to the classroom.
“I have signed [a] pledge, along with over 8,000+ union educators to continue to work remotely,” Chambers wrote in a tweet, Just the News reported.
Hours later, Chambers posted a picture on Instagram of her Caribbean vacation.
“Spending the last day of 2020 by the poolside,” the caption said.“We have the whole pool to ourselves. Then, we are going to old San Juan to get some yummy seafood mofongo. We have an entire Airbnb house to ourselves. I’m here with my friend who also had covid.”
Once the CTU head came under fire for her hypocrisy, Chambers took to Twitter to defend her actions.
“I got 4 covid tests (2 rapid, 2 PCR) b4 coming here & wore 2 masks (N95),” she wrote in a now-deleted tweet. “Scientists said airplanes are safer than grocery stores bc airplanes have ICU level filtration & everyone wears masks. My doc said it’s extremely unlikely for me to get Covid again since I had it so badly.”
While the CTU refused to return to in-person instruction, Chicago’s public health commissioner, Dr. Allison Arwady, pointed to the Archdiocese of Chicago as an example of low transmission rates among students.
“Arwady pointed out data from the Archdiocese of Chicago showing the infection rate among students was half the rate of students out of school while teachers’ infection rate was akin to ‘adults in the community,'” The Daily Wire reported at the time. “The Archdiocese of Chicago supervises roughly 200 Chicago-area schools that have been mostly open for months.”
March 2021: Berkeley teachers union president advocated for remote learning while taking his daughter to in-person preschool.
Back in March, Berkeley Federation of Teachers President, Matt Meyer, advocated for schools in his district not to reopen until all teachers and district staff were vaccinated and an agreement was reached on social distancing and mask-wearing, The Daily Wire reported. It was what he deemed the “gold standard.”
Parents, however, were rightfully upset when KQED-TV uncovered a video of Meyer taking his 2-year-old daughter to in-person instruction at a nearby preschool.
Part of the reason Berkeley teachers refused to return to the classroom was the concern that young children may not follow the district’s mask guidelines. Dr. Shelene Stine, an internal medicine doctor at Highland Hospital, told KQED that isn’t necessarily the case.
“I am a physician. It is definitively the scientific agreement that it is possible to deliver safe in-person education,” Stine explained. “It’s infuriating to know Matt Meyer says kids can’t wear masks when kids in his preschool wear them all day long.”
Meyer said his daughter is at the preschool because, “Unfortunately, there are not public schools for kids her age. We are excited that we will be reopening soon with a plan that our members and the district supports.”
The Berkeley Unified School District announced a phased reopening, with all students returning to the classroom by the end of April. According to The Daily Californian, only elementary schools have returned to in-person instruction. Parents with middle and high school students are now suing the school district for failing to return their children to the classroom.
March 2021: United Teachers Los Angeles warned teachers about posting spring break photos online.
In March, the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), one of California’s largest teachers’ unions, allegedly told members of a private Facebook group not to post pictures or details of any spring break vacations they may have taken.
“Friendly reminder: If you are planning any trips for Spring Break, please keep that off of Social Media,” a member posted in a private Facebook group. “It is hard to argue that it is unsafe for in-person instruction, if parents and the public see vacation photos and international travel.”
NEW: In a leaked post from a private Facebook group for UTLA union members only, teachers are warned not to post on social media if they go on spring break vacations because the optics would be bad for them while UTLA is refusing to return to "unsafe" in-person schooling @FOXLA pic.twitter.com/KxQc7k450T
— Bill Melugin (@BillFOXLA) March 9, 2021
The UTLA stated they are not responsible for what their members post on social media.
“We have a diverse membership and they are able to post their views on personal Facebook pages and in this Facebook group — however UTLA does not monitor nor is responsible for the content,” the union told Fox News reporter Bill Melugin.
The news came after UTLA members voted overwhelmingly not to return to the classroom until their list of demands are met. According to ABC 7, teachers would not return to in-person instruction until Los Angeles County moves out of California’s most restrictive COVID-19 tier — the purple tier — and all staff are fully vaccinated or have access to vaccines.
May 2021: Records indicate the American Federation of Teachers lobbied the CDC to keep schools closed.
Earlier this month, emails between the AFT, the CDC, and the White House showed that the largest teachers’ union lobbied to keep learning virtual, according to a report from The Daily Wire.
“The documents show a flurry of activity between CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, her top advisors, and union officials — with Biden brass being looped in at the White House — in the days before the highly-anticipated Feb. 12 announcement on school-reopening guidelines,” the New York Post reported.
The AFT “even suggested language for the federal agency’s school-reopening guidance released in February,” the Post added.
Around that time, Dr. Walensky mentioned it was safe for teachers to return to the classroom without a COVID-19 vaccine, as long as mask-wearing remained in effect. When the CDC finally released its guidance on school re-openings, the agency “admitted that ‘science’ was not the sole driving factor in establishing its school reopening guidelines and that officials coordinated with ‘outside groups’ to make its recommendations on the subject,” The Daily Wire reported.
According to the emails, the teachers’ union wanted the CDC to stay away from blanket statements about reopening. The AFT also demanded the CDC’s guidance included accommodations for teachers who were considered “high-risk” for contracting COVID-19.
Despite all of their resistance to returning to in-person instruction, the teachers union is now partnering with the Biden administration on “mounting a campaign to return American children to classrooms five days a week,” according to Politico.
Beth Baumann is a Political Reporter and Editor at The Daily Wire. Follow her on Twitter @eb454.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.