Issues & Insights
Empty school classroom. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Science Is Very Clear: Schools Should Reopen This Fall

I&I Editorial

Progressives like to brag that they prize science over politics. Indeed, it’s a major talking point in their effort to “transform” America from the greatest nation on Earth to, well, something else. But one look at the debate over reopening schools this fall shows just how absurd that assertion really is.

Los Angeles, home to the nation’s second-largest school district, is a case in point. The city has long been governed by far-left Democrats, to its detriment. But the local teachers’ union really takes the cake when it comes to extremist positions on COVID-19 and school closures.

The 35,000-strong union put out a staff “research paper” — it was in fact merely regurgitated leftist talking points and propaganda — telling local politicians they would refuse opening unless, among other things, there was a “moratorium” on charter schools and the police were defunded.

Among the “other things” in the union demands were a national Medicare-for-All program, new taxes on the wealthy, and, of course, a federally funded infusion of cash for the near-bankrupt Los Angeles school district.

The proposal would place so many restrictions on students and their interaction with teachers that it would make the educational experience nearly meaningless. But the document went way beyond just talking about education. Here’s a taste:

The COVID-19 pandemic in the United States underscores the deep equity and justice challenges arising from our profoundly racist, intensely unequal society. Unlike other countries that recognize protecting lives is the key to protecting livelihoods, the United States has chosen to prioritize profits over people. The Trump administration’s attempt to force people to return to work on a large scale depends on restarting physical schools so parents have child care.

So much for “it’s all about the kids.” Or “science.” It’s really all about Karl Marx – and more money and more control.

Los Angeles is an admittedly extreme example, but similar things are happening around the country in other union-run school districts.

Unfortunately, most parents don’t fully understand the damage being done to their kids as a result of the teachers unions’ COVID-19 power-play. It’s a real pity.

As we noted, so-called Democrat “progressives,” which includes teachers unions bosses and members, like to say that “science” should drive public debate over COVID-19 and school openings.

Fair enough. So let’s look at the “science,” shall we?

One of the surprising revelations from the COVID-19 nightmare is that doctors and scientists strongly agree that it would be better for young people to go back to school in the fall than to stay at home.

Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control, told The Hill last week that keeping schools closed this fall “is a greater public health threat to the children than having the schools reopen.”

That follows a June 25 American Academy of Pediatrics suggestion that local officials “should start (their deliberations on the coming school year) with a goal of having students physically present in school.”

The AAP noted that not only are kids the least likely to have serious coronavirus infections, but that any actions taken should consider “the known harms to children, adolescents, families and the community by keeping children at home.”

It later backtracked, issuing a “joint statement” under pressure from the two largest national teachers unions, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, along with the education bureaucrats’ interest group, the School Superintendents Association.

Sure, the statement pays lip service to science, saying that “Science should drive decision-making on safely reopening schools,” and that “Public health agencies must make recommendations based on evidence, not politics.”

Unfortunately, the science on the transmission of coronavirus by kids at school is pretty clear.

A number of studies and reports in the U.S. and around the world (here, here, here, here and here, for example) show that, in the words of one study, “children play a minor role in the spread of the novel coronavirus. The virus is mainly spread between adults and from adult family members to children.”

So the medical danger to kids of reopening schools is minimal or nonexistent, while the danger of having parents out of work and unable to pay their bills is very real and has already affected millions due to needless lockdowns.

Think rising suicide rates, more child and spousal abuse, soaring mortgage default rates, increased stress and depression. Better for kids to be in school, learning.

And this is a commonly held idea among leading doctors and researchers.

“Of course, we can (reopen schools.) Everyone else in the world and the western world, our peer nations are doing it. We are the outlier here,” Dr. Scott Atlas, former head of Stanford University Medical Center’s neuroradiology department, told Fox News on Wednesday.

“If you believe in science, science says that 99.97% of deaths in the United States are in people over 15, 99.9 are people over 24,” he added. “The hospitalization rate for influenza according to the CDC is much greater than from COVID-19 for children.”

We don’t close schools because of the flu. Why do it for the coronavirus?

“There is virtually zero risk for children getting something serious or dying from this disease,” says Scott Atlas. “Anyone who thinks schools should be closed is not talking about the children. It has nothing to do with the children’s risk.”

A study by World Bank education economist Harry Anthony Padrinos showed that, among rich nations such as the U.S., an additional year of schooling adds about 10% to a child’s lifetime income.

Based on that, since poor and disadvantaged kids are most likely to be hurt by continued school closures, keeping doors closed this fall could add to inequality and poverty.

It seems clear that the teacher unions and others pushing to keeps schools closed in the fall aren’t really interested in science. Nor do they have kids’ best interests in mind. Instead, they are more interested in their own pocketbooks, expanding their own power and getting rid of a certain president for whom they have a near-pathological loathing.

Yes, they should be ashamed. But shame has long ago left the building.

— Written by the I&I Editorial Board

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I & I Editorial Board

The Issues and Insights Editorial Board has decades of experience in journalism, commentary and public policy.


  • Children are not driven to school by children. They are not administered or taught by children.

    This and similar articles dances around the obvious question. That question is: Is it prudent to put a child in an environnment for an extended period of time with adults where the children can be aymptomatic transmitters of the virus to their families and others?

    Ultimately, this won’t be a top-down decision. Individuals and families will make decisions based on their own assessment of risk. This will mean that parents will home school and low-wage staffers such as bus drivers and substitute teachers as well as many other teachers will not return to their jobs. Teachers with certain health conditions and of a certain age will take early retirement.

    Unless there is a vaccine or unless there is a significant downtrend in infections and mortality, schools will most likely remain closed no matter how much the politicans plead and threaten.

    • I guess you didn’t read the article, or the supporting research articles which clearly state that not only are children highly unlikely to die from COVID-19, but that they are also not likely to transmit the disease to other adults. Adults typically get COVID from other adults, not typically from children.

    • …children play a minor role in the spread of the novel coronavirus. The virus is mainly spread between adults and from adult family members to children.

    • Schools in the Netherlands and Germany which have already opened have reported ZERO cases of Covid-19 passed from adult to child or child to adult.

  • Kids do have a remarkably low chance of dying from the Covid -19 Virus. However, their parents, grandparents, school teachers, and school staff do not. It is tragic that an article in Issues and Insight would have such little insight.

  • If Biden wins, schools and business will miraculously open the next day.

  • In the Democrat Party’s special interest hierarchy, inner city children will always be way behind teacher’s unions. The black lives of inner city school children do not matter if in conflict with teacher union goals.

  • Agree with all of this. Schools should never have been closed at all or perhaps for a fortnight out of concern for the poorly prepared hospitals and governments who had warning of what has occurred from SARS and MERS and H1N1. Closing schools was just one of many, many, many knee-jerk responses to this virus. The news media should be ashamed of itself for the way they have spread FUD on this virus. People are still cowering. The medical community should take a slice of the shame as well since they cannot and have not arrived at a consistent story at any point in this virus progression. Just think of the wildly varying day-to-day statements from more doctors than I ever wanted to hear from. And I am still surprised at how Americans have run from this. Grow a set please and live your life!

    Shame never even entered the building.

  • 32% of the children tested in Florida were positive. 32%. What does that mean? It means they got the bug and can transmit the bug to anyone they contact. There is no version of this virus that is trapped within a kid’s body unable to be “shed”. Not only that, but kids are often asymptomatic. Want to know what that means? Google “Typhoid Mary”. She was asymptomatic and gave people typhoid for 38 years until she died of a stroke. Once they get it and the body doesn’t react to it, they keep it. The virus can’t be killed, it can only be dismantled by the immune system. If the kid’s immune system accepts it, the kid can pass it on, what, forever? There are absolutely no long-term studies on this. We can only use common sense. If the did gets it and his body doesn’t destroy it, he can give it to everyone forever. Viruses have blended into our DNA since mankind was evolved. Parts of our DNA are said to be from viruses our bodies assimilated. It isn’t going away. Kids are carriers. That is just a plain fact.

  • Science may allow schools to open, but Social Studies & Math says that sending your helpless children into a Marxist indoctrination center run by unionized pedophiles and a racial paramilitary is a terrible idea any day of the week. Shut them down, and keep them shut.

  • Figure it out America, as a teacher for thirteen years I came to the very sad realization that teachers only give a crap about teachers. Primarily themselves. Every school has two or three teachers who the kids love because they love the kids but the vast majority neither like nor care about America’s kids. The only way to end the power of this miserable group is to pull your kids out of public school. My sons went to charter school and online classes. Bi went to Catholic school. I have a number of friends who formed home school cooperatives which was hugely helpful for working parents. These kids have all been very successful. I’m sixty now and my kids and my friends kids are grown. Get your kids out of the government run schools any way you can. Break the teachers union and government schools. These people want to destroy this country and they want to do it with your kids.

  • My kids schools are reopening but it they weren’t I had already arranged for a full time tutor and they would have come into my work where one of the conference rooms would be converted into a class room. In some ways, that might offer them a more advanced education. Even though they take honors, IB and AP courses I still feel they can be pushed harder.

    I wasn’t worried, but what about the families that can’t afford private tutoring and offer a dedicated space for learning?

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