No School Joe
President Joe Biden and his team at the White House have said they want schools to reopen, but their words do not match their actions.
Biden’s CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said that teachers do not need to be vaccinated to safely reopen schools. She added, “There should be no confusion, the president of the United States wants schools to open, he wants them to stay open and that is key.”
But when Walensky made her call for schools to reopen, the administration panicked. Press Secretary Jen Psaki claimed Walensky made those remarks in her “personal capacity” (from a White House podium during a White House press conference).
One week later, Psaki was asked about schools again and she clarified that Biden’s plan to have schools reopen would be a success if teachers were “teaching one day a week in the majority of schools by day 100 [of Biden’s presidency].” Days later, she doubled down on that position.
White House: Our goal is to have 50 percent of schools open by April 30, 2021 — “at least one day per week” pic.twitter.com/7VNpG9i0Sx
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) February 9, 2021
So, in other words, nearly half of schools can remain closed and those that are open only need to be open one day per week. That is reopening schools in Joe Biden’s eyes.
Throughout the country, teachers in cities like Chicago are refusing to return to work at the behest of the teachers union. The unions argue that the issue is safety, despite all the studies showing that COVID is not a significant threat in schools. In Fairfax County, Virginia, some teachers will continue to teach from home while the district pays other individuals to stand in the classroom and supervise the children. (Apparently, there is no health risk to the non-teacher adults or there is a threat to the stand-ins but since they aren’t in the union, the union apparently doesn’t care.)
Ron Klein, Biden’s chief of staff, told CNN the problem isn’t unions, it’s money. The districts do not have enough cash to fully reopen safely, Klein argued, so they need additional funding.
To recap, K-12 schools already received roughly $1,321.50 PER student from the $54 billion relief package in December and $13.5 billion relief package in March on top of the savings each district has accumulated by keeping their doors shut and not having to fuel busses, pay custodial overtime during sporting events, or hire substitute teachers.
Several states have managed to reopen schools safely under the same conditions. Students and teachers in Florida have been in the classroom throughout the year, as have students in Iowa, Texas, and Arkansas. And these teachers have been in the classroom five days a week, not just one.
Klein also argued that schools needed smaller class sizes, but many schools do not have the physical space to spread out the students. If the vaccine rollout goes as planned, the spread of COVID should be conquered within the next year or so — which is not enough time to build extra schools and classrooms in every district. No amount of extra cash can solve the capacity problem in the next six months.
So, Klein was probably half-right when he said school closures are about money, not unions. The part he left out is that Biden’s hesitancy to reopen schools is about money from unions.
Teachers’ unions have been tremendous donors to Democratic politicians for decades and in the 2020 cycle, Joe Biden was their top individual recipient according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Biden received more than $232,000 in just this election cycle alone.
While Biden considers whether he can go against the teachers’ union, students are suffering at home. The students in Fairfax County, Virginia, saw the rate of failing grades grow by 83% this year. Schools in New York are seeing a learning gap expand between white and black students. Suicide rates in children in teens have also been on the rise.
The American Academy of Pediatrics warned in June that children were suffering because of school closures. Children need to socialize to properly develop. Teachers cannot see children to detect abuse or neglect. Some children are missing out on much needed physical education after months spent on a couch while other children are missing meals without a nutritious school lunch program.
Teachers’ unions are sacrificing the students’ futures under the guise of COVID concerns and the Biden administration can’t decide if they want to fall in line with the union or reopen schools.
America needs to reopen its schools and get kids back in the classroom. Kids are falling behind academically and suffering from depression and isolation.
Please join us by adding your voice to our call to ask the Biden Administration to stop listening to teachers unions and start caring about students.