by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The coronavirus pandemic has brought too many failures of leadership to count. But chief among them is remote learning and teachers unions’ continued lobbying against reopening schools.
When the virus was still a novel concept and schools shut down in response, we understood why. There was too much we did not know about COVID-19, and the risk of endangering students and teachers was too great. As time went on, however, the science became overwhelmingly clear that COVID-19 posed little risk to children and that schools were not a major source of transmission. It also became clear that distance learning has been a disaster both for students and for parents, especially those with limited resources.
Over the course of the year, it has become glaringly obvious that unions insisting on long-term school closures were not concerned about their students’ health or teachers’ safety so much as they were interested in what they could gain from the shutdown.
In Los Angeles, for example, one of the largest teachers unions in the state released a reopening proposal in July that was accompanied by a list of demands. These included — we kid you not — defunding the Los Angeles Police Department, implementing “Medicare for all,” increasing taxes on the wealthy, and placing a moratorium on charter schools in the county. The purpose of this ultimatum was purely political, yet Los Angeles’s public schools remain closed to this day.
New York City’s public schools made progress this fall by gradually reintroducing students to the classroom. But teachers unions sabotaged this, too, demanding that Mayor Bill de Blasio close public schools again because coronavirus cases in the city had risen above a certain threshold. Never mind that the schools themselves were nowhere near this threshold, or that viral transmission among students had been proven nonexistent.