Joe Biden has a decision to make: either allow kids to go and get the education they deserve — that taxpayers pay for — or comply with the demands of one of his largest campaign donors, the Teachers unions.
More than 10 months into the COVID-19 pandemic, we know considerably more about the virus than when it first began dominating our lives.
And among the most undeniable conclusions is that whatever health risk there may be in re-opening the nation’s schools, it’s dwarfed by the effects of continuing to keep students home.
Sadly, we also know the primary reason why it isn’t happening — teachers unions.
We know definitively that children very rarely contract the disease and almost never die of it. According to the British Medical Association, for example, the odds of someone aged 10 to 19 even requiring hospitalization is about .06 percent. And the survival rate for COVID patients in that age group is upwards of 99.8 percent.
From March through December, it’s estimated that 172 American children died of the virus — a heartbreaking statistic, to be sure. But to put it in perspective, each year around 1,000 die in drowning accidents in the U.S., yet no one is suggesting we ban water or swimming.
On the other hand, we also know that:
- Emergency rooms have seen a 24 percent increase in mental health-related visits from children ages 5 to 11 compared to last year. The increase among older kids is even higher — 31 percent.
- Food banks have been slammed with hungry families as an estimated 17 million children — many largely cut off from free school lunches — are now in danger of not having enough to eat.
- Schools are struggling to teach students remotely or in classrooms in which children wear masks and sit behind plastic shields.
- Some districts report that the number of students who’ve missed at least 10 percent of classes, which studies show could lead to devastating lifelong consequences, has more than doubled.
Even worse, experts believe the pandemic is responsible for an alarming spike in rates of depression, substance abuse and even suicide among students whose social safety net was ripped away with no warning.
Believe me, my wife is a public-school teacher and I’ve seen all of this first-hand.
A Sept. 29 article in the Daily Signal points to studies showing that, “(T)he stringent social-distancing measures put in place to combat the spread of COVID-19 have significantly worsened teen mental health. Because teenagers are social by nature and developmentally reliant on their peers, the pandemic has exacerbated mental health issues among an age cohort already vulnerable to begin with.”
So much for the argument that the students’ welfare comes first.
According to USA Today, “Almost three out of four urban districts offer only online instruction, according to a new report from the Center on Reinventing Education at the University of Washington. Some districts that got kids back to schools face major pushback from unions, predominantly around safety measures and the spike in COVID-19 infection rates in the community.”
“Our members took a vote to keep learning remotely to avoid disaster,” Stacy Davis Gates, vice president of the Chicago Teachers Union, said last week.
A disaster for whom? The current arrangement, experts agree, is already a disaster for students. But for teachers, apparently the greater risk is in no longer being paid to work from home — or worse, losing leverage in collective bargaining negotiations over completely unrelated issues.
In July, to cite just one example, the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) floated a list of demands that would be required to be met before the 30,000 teachers represented by the union return to the classroom. Among these were defunding the police, providing Medicare for all and a shutdown of all private charter schools.
Similarly, the Oregon Education Association penned a letter asking that Gov. Kate Brown limit the number of Oregon students who could enroll in private online charter schools to continue receiving quality education.
The same USA Today article was originally headlined “Biden wants to reopen schools, but teachers unions resist.” No doubt betraying the president’s reluctance to break ranks with his generous campaign donors, it was later changed online to read, “Your kid might not return to a classroom this year. Are teachers unions to blame?”
They are, but don’t expect Biden to side against them.
When White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain was asked on CNN why the president was allowing unions to keep the schools closed in defiance of so much evidence suggesting they could — and should— be re-opened now, he answered, “I’ll give you a word: Money … I don’t think teachers’ unions are overruling studies. I think what you’re seeing is that schools haven’t made the investments to keep the students safe.”
Biden has a decision to make in the coming weeks: whether to do what’s best for the kids of today and leaders of tomorrow, or bend over to the demands of his campaign donors, the teachers unions.
Aaron Withe is national director of the Freedom Foundation, a multi-state public policy organization specializing in the abuses of government employee unions.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
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