Analysis

7 Democrats Who Resisted Reopening Schools After Taking Thousands From Teacher Unions

Here is a list of all the Democrats who backed efforts to keep schools closed while taking thousands from teacher unions.

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Democrats are taking the side of the Chicago Teachers Union as it vows to strike. City leadership ordered teachers to return to classroom learning and the ongoing feud is highlighting the burgeoning divide between teacher unions — who wish to keep schools closed — and school administrators — who wish to safely reopen using mitigation strategies.

The White House Chief of Staff, Ron Klain, is among the most notable Democrats to take the side of the teacher unions that refuse to return to in-person learning. 

The unions and the Biden administration claim that reopening schools is unsafe, despite evidence that in-school transmission of COVID-19 is extremely rare. A peer-reviewed study from the American Academy of Pediatrics found that “schools can stay open safely in communities with widespread community transmission.” Other studies have also indicated that schools are not driving coronavirus infections. 

Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also calls on schools to reopen for in-person learning “as safely and quickly as possible.” Dr. Anthony Fauci has repeatedly echoed the CDC guidelines to reopen schools, as well.  

Despite Democrats’ calls for “science” to drive policy, there appears to be another force driving their policy goals — political donations from teacher unions. Here are the Democrats who backed efforts to keep schools closed while taking thousands from teacher unions in the 2020 election cycle: 

1. Rep. Colin Allred (D-TX)

Allred has called on experts to guide how schools should safely reopen, though he advocated for Dallas County Schools to remain closed. “Protecting our kids is our top priority and we can’t reopen our schools safely yet,” Allred said after Dallas County Schools voted to remain closed through Labor Day. “I know this is not easy for many, but I support the decision to delay.” 

The Dallas County School System remains in virtual learning and will consider a reopening plan on Feb. 12. 

In the 2020 election cycle, Allred received $20,102 from teacher unions. 

2. Rep. Cindy Axne (D-IA)

In an interview with the Iowa Capital Dispatch, Axne blasted Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) for reopening schools. “Right now we’re seeing teachers who are asking for living wills,” Axne said. “Teachers are fighting back against the proclamation of the governor because they’re scared for their own health and safety and that of their families.” 

In the same interview, Axne said that teachers should make decisions regarding when school reopenings are safe from themselves and students. “Our teachers and our administrators need to be the ones who are making the decision about what’s right for them and what’s right for the children that they serve in those communities,” Axne said

In the 2020 election cycle, Axne received $21,410 from teacher unions. 

3. Rep. Sean Casten (D-IL)

On Twitter, Casten tweeted that reopening schools was done to satisfy the agendas of Donald Trump and former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. The Illinois representative tweeted out an article from CNN about the loss of an Arizona teacher with a caption that claims reopening schools could kill people. 

“If you care about our students and our teachers, don’t listen to [Betsy DeVos] until she has a plan informed by scientists and public health experts,” Casten said. “Reopening just to satisfy the president will serve only to kill more people.”

In the 2020 election cycle, Casten received $20,540 from teacher unions. 

4. Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-CT)

In an August interview with The New York Times, Hayes said that reopening schools is “irresponsible” because there is no scientific evidence to support reopening. 

“Where is the point at which you think it would be safe to send kids back to schools? I can’t think of any other segment of the economy that even proposed reopening at full capacity. Not airlines, not restaurants, not theaters, nothing,” Hayes said. “And to have that even be a part of the conversation when it came to schools — and not be supported by the science of the data — I think is completely irresponsible.” 

Hayes also introduced a bill to bail out school districts that were forced to lay off teachers due to school closures. The bill is endorsed by the American Federation of Teachers, the second-largest teacher union in the nation. 

In the 2020 election cycle, Hayes received $20,279 from teacher unions. 

5. Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI)

In a post entitled, “Congressman Andy Levin Blasts Trump and DeVos for Catastrophic School Reopening Demands,” Levin did just that. The Michigan congressman called on the Trump administration to stop schools from returning to in-person instruction. 

“I’m calling on this administration to stop demanding that in-person instruction resume while failing to contain the coronavirus or provide schools with the resources they need to reopen safely,” Levin said. “Neither has any business ignoring the warning of public health experts, educators, and parents for the sake of their vanity projects.”

In the 2020 election cycle, Levin received $15,460 from teacher unions. 

6. Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL)

In June, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) announced $475 million in state-directed education funding to safely reopen all of Florida’s schools. The announcement was met with ire from Murphy who claimed that schools were not safe enough to reopen. 

“State leaders allowed the virus to spread unchecked, failed to implement aggressive measures to protect Floridians [and] are moving forward with a school reopening plan that ignores the severity of community spread,” Murphy said. “It is no surprise the result has been an unmitigated disaster.” 

In the 2020 election cycle, Murphy received $14,000 from teacher unions. 

7. Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA)

During a virtual town hall, Spanberger sided with the teacher unions by implying that schools can only reopen once teachers are fully vaccinated.

“I would like to see schools reopened as soon as possible. But, as soon as possible and safe,” Spanberger said. “My hope and expectation is that with the increase [sic] purchase of vaccinations … that we will be able to prioritize and strengthen vaccinations to teachers.” 

In the 2020 election cycle, Spanberger was the top recipient of teacher union money in the House of Representatives with $27,406. 

Communications representatives from all seven congressional offices did not respond to requests for comment. 

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