Defying coronavirus science, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, and common sense about where this dangerous path will lead, the chiefs of teachers’ unions continue to call for the closing of America’s schools and the continuance of home-based online teaching of students.
These people are the whispered incoming secretaries for a Joe Biden Department of Education?
Two of the most talked-up names for the new administration’s top education dog are Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, and Lily Eskelsen Garcia, past president of the National Education Association. Both say they simply want to make sure schools are reopened in manners that are safe for students — but that funding is needed to ensure this safety.
“The American economy cannot recover is schools can’t reopen and we cannot properly reopen schools if funding is slashed and students don’t have what they need to be safe, learn and succeed,” said Garcia in June, before she stepped aside as head of the NEA.
Weingarten sang the same funding tune in June, as well.
“Teachers union leader insists schools will need more funding to reopen on time amid pandemic,” Fox News reported in June. “Randi Weingarten says schools need money for PPE [personal protective equipment] as well as ‘extra teachers,’ ‘extra cleaning,’ ‘extra buses.’”
That was then.
This is now: “Martha MacCallum presses teachers’ union head Weingarten on school closings: ‘You’re not listening to me,’” Fox News reported just this week, about a fiery segment between the cable host and union chief over New York City’s shutdown of public schools for in-person classes — for an indefinite period of time.
But here’s the thing; this is also now: Children, it’s been found, in study after study, are largely unaffected by the coronavirus. So why are schools still closed in many spots around the nation? The science certainly doesn’t justify the closures.
“CDC director pushes back on schools closing amid pandemic,” Denver7 wrote, just this week.
It’s teachers’ unions, pure and simple, refusing to support mass reopenings because — and this is the abusive part — they see the children as a tool for personal financial gain and are willing to hold out for the moolah no matter how many horrible consequences come.
“North Carolina’s SAT score drops 2 points during COVID-19,” The News & Observer reported, adding that a “growing number of colleges and universities are not requiring the test due to the coronavirus pandemic.”
And this, from the Texas Tribune in October: “Alarming failure rates among Texas students fuel calls to get them back into classrooms.”
And this, from Texas TV station KXAN in November: “Failing grades are spiking for Round Rock middle and high school students.”
And this, from the Los Angeles Times, also in November: “Ds and Fs surge, attendance slips among L.A.’s poorest students amid distance learning.”
These headlines are hardly surprising.
In fact, they’re common sense. Not all students are raised in families with parents who are hawks when it comes to their kids’ education. Not all students are raised in families where parents or caretakers even give a crap about their education. And not all students, even the ones with sufficient support systems at home, are capable of learning remotely, absent the human touch, staring at a computer screen all day.
That doesn’t even get into the factor of underperforming teachers, lazy teachers, opportunistic teachers who love the idea of drawing a salary from the comfort of their own couches, even while knowing their students are falling behind or failing — and let’s be real, there are some.
What’s to happen to the kids who can’t catch up? What’s to happen to this country with a whole generation of dumbed-down kids?
“COVID-19 and student learning in the United States: The hurt could last a lifetime,” McKinsey & Company found, in a recent study of the situation. And especially for those in poorer populations, of Black and Hispanic heritages.
“School shutdowns could not only cause disproportionate learning losses for these students — compounding existing gaps — but also lead more of them to drop out. This could have long-term effects on these children’s long-term economic well-being and on the US economy as a whole,” McKinsey & Company continued.
But at least the teachers’ unions have their bartering chip, right?
That’s inexcusable. That’s inexcusable, abusive to the country’s most vulnerable, the children and, moreover, utterly unfitting for a member of American society who may very well be the next leader of our country’s public schools.
Stop the abuse. Open the schools already. It’s proper and sane. It may not be for the unions — but it is indeed for the children.
• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter, @ckchumley. Listen to her podcast “Bold and Blunt” by clicking HERE. And never miss her column; subscribe to her newsletter by clicking HERE.