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On Tuesday, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain took the side of teachers’ unions that have refused to have their members return to teaching. In response to CNN’s Erin Burnett asking why he thought so many public schools across the country were closed, Klain answered, “I’ll give you a word: money.”
When Burnett queried Klain about “unions in many cases … overruling what the studies show,” Klain replied, “I don’t think unions are overruling studies.”
Resistance from teacher’s unions to a return to work has been demonstrated in various ways. The Washington Post reported on Monday: “Elizabeth Davis, president of the Washington Teachers’ Union, said that opening schools safely requires more than vaccines. It’s also about health metrics and safety measures in schools. ‘Having the vaccine available for teachers,’ she said at a town hall Monday with parents and educators, ‘does not solve all the problems.’”
The Daily Wire reported on Sunday:
Chicago’s teacher’s union voted on Sunday to defy Chicago Public Schools administration and refuse to return to in-person teaching even though pupils are due back in classrooms on February 1st. Chicago Public Schools (CPS) has been locked in a power struggle with the union for some time, with teachers and union brass insisting that it is not safe for teachers to return to classrooms, even though Chicago’s private schools have been in-person for months. At one point, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) suggested that any plan to return to in-classroom teaching would be both racist and sexist.
The exchange between Burnett and Klain went like this:
Burnett: Let me talk about schools. I don’t know if you heard the governor of Colorado was saying that schools are the safest place to be. Look, we’ve known that from studies for quite some time. I have two kids in public school which has meant they’ve been home a lot, even though study after study has shown it’s safe to open schools. So today, I know you saw the CDC journal publishing yet another study saying you can open K-12 schools for in-person learning with minimal COVID transmission. Why do you think so many public schools across this country are still closed in places where the private schools are open?
Klain: Yeah. I’ll give you a word: money. That’s why the president of the United States sent a plan to Congress even before he took office to make the investments you need to make that school safe. What that study in Wisconsin from the CDC showed was that 17 rural schools that got a sizable grant from a private foundation to put in the kinds of safety measures they needed; students in very small pods, classes of about 11 or 12, distanced in a rural area, they could go to school safely.
And governors who’ve made those investments — Governor Polis is a great leader in this field, you know, he’s done a lot — but in other states, we haven’t seen those kinds of investments. President Biden has sent a plan to Congress that will make sure that a majority of our schools can be open within 100 days. We need Congress to pass that plan so we can do the kinds of things you need to do so that the schools can be safe, so that the teachers can be safe, so that the students can be safe.
Sadly, it costs money, Erin.
Burnett: Yeah, no. I mean, that’s definitely true but, you know, we’ve all seen, of course, that the transmission, it’s just — it’s just not happening. I mean, in Chicago, the teachers union voted this weekend to continue remote learning. They were about to open. The town of Montclair, New Jersey, this story came across, public schools were scheduled to reopen for hybrid learning. For elementary school kids, it’d be the first day of going to school in-person since March of last year, 10 months, but then they scrapped plans at the last minute after the local teachers’ union refused to return to classrooms. Ron, why do you think that the unions in many cases are overruling what the studies show?
Klain: I don’t think unions are overruling studies. I think what you’re seeing is schools that haven’t made the investments to keep the students safe. I mean, again, the Wisconsin city where classrooms of 12 on average. So, that requires a lot more classrooms, a lot more teachers, or, you know, other kinds of arrangements to get them small, podding students very carefully. So, we need to do the things to open safely. Most of the teachers I talked to, they want to be back in the classroom.
Burnett: That’s true.
Klain: They just want to know that’s safe, and we as a country should make the investments to make it safe.