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Classic American school classroom. Photo: Andrew Postell, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

The Real Reason Why Your Kids Can’t Go Back To School (Hint: It’s Not COVID-19)

I&I Editorial

Schools have been closed for the better part of a year now, for the putative reason that COVID-19 makes them unsafe. Only distance learning and Zoom and other online classes are safe enough for both teachers and kids, we’re told. Even though the science says otherwise, powerful teachers unions keep schools closed anyway. But why?

Let’s start with a blunt fact: The teachers unions — including the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA), along with a host of radicalized local unions — don’t have your kids’ best interests at heart, despite their well-funded, slick propaganda to the contrary.

They oppose reopening schools, despite overwhelming evidence they should be reopened immediately.

As a must-read piece in the American Institute for Economic Research recently noted:

Significant evidence shows that a truncated school year supplemented with online learning is vastly inferior to the education children get in-person. Virtual learning is particularly harmful to students from poor socioeconomic backgrounds who do not have sufficient resources to support their learning.

This is a looming disaster for all children, but especially for poor and minority kids.

A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) estimated that school closures could cost the 24.2 million affected U.S. students nearly 5.53 million total years of life, largely due to lower incomes, less educational achievement, and worse health outcomes.

Higher levels of drug abuse and overdoses, massive increases in mental health hospital visits, along with surging suicide rates among children have been cited by the Centers for Disease Control as stemming from pandemic school closures.

Meanwhile, fears of schools becoming incubators for renewed surges of COVID-19 infections are grossly exaggerated, other studies and data show.

Start with the fact that, according to the Centers for Disease Control, just 168 kids 17 or under have died from COVID-19 through Dec. 19. That’s less than 0.05% of the total of nearly 300,000 COVID-19 deaths. By comparison, those aged 65 to 74 accounted for more than 21% of the total deaths.

Studies this year by peer-reviewed journals back these data up.

“COVID-19 is generally a mild disease in children, including infants,” a study in the British medical journal Lancet found.

Even the usually union-friendly New York Times was recently forced to admit: “Researchers once feared that school reopening’s might spread the virus through communities. But so far there is little evidence that it’s happening.”

The most cynical expression of unions’ lack of concern for students came earlier this year in Los Angeles, where the 35,000-member United Teachers of Los Angeles demanded, among other things, that local officials defund the police; pushed for a “moratorium” on charter schools; and insisted policymakers enact Medicare for All, provide more welfare for illegal immigrants, and levy enormous new taxes on commercial properties and “wealth.”

Of course, none of these things have anything to do with education. They’re just part of the much broader extremist agenda of the far left, which now largely controls American education.

The frightening thing is leftist teachers unions seem to have a strong ally in Joe Biden, who recently suggested that it might be better to keep schools closed all year.

So what is the unions’ price tag for reopening schools nationally? A cool $100 billion “investment,” as the left calls it. Smells more like ransom to us. The Democrat progressives and unions are holding your kids hostage.

Too cynical, you say? Not at all. Unions have been behind the closures all along.

As a recent study of 835 school districts asserted: “Using data on the reopening decisions of 835 public school districts in the United States, we find that school districts in locations with stronger teachers’ unions are less likely to reopen in person even after we control … for differences in local demographic characteristics.”

But health concerns weren’t the reason for closures. They were a pretext.

As the study cited above noted, closures “provide additional benefits to union members by reducing childcare responsibilities, hours of direct instruction, and commute times. Furthermore, because teachers’ unions with more power are in better positions to influence school districts, we expect that school districts in locations with stronger teachers’ unions will be less likely to reopen with in-person instruction.”

In short, teachers unions are using COVID-19 to extort more benefits and more money from the education system for their members. They don’t care about the kids.

For his part, if he gains office, Biden will be more interested in keeping his solid union support happy than in sending kids back to school.

Polls show parents want their kids back in school. The only people who don’t want the schools to reopen appear to be leftist politicians and their union supporters. For the record, since 1990, the the NEA and AFT, the two largest teachers unions, have given Democrats at least 94% of their political contributions.

There’s a solution for this dilemma. De-unionize the nation’s public schools. Unions have damaged American education, dumbing down curricula, filling kids’ heads with anti-American socialist dogma, and presiding over decades of rising costs and declining or stagnant test scores. It’s time to restore local control by parents over education. A system that works.

— Written by the I&I Editorial Board

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


    • They haven’t been for at least 30 years. Clinton grabbed them back in the early 90’s when he quietly padded their pensions exponentially with taxpayer funds.

  • There should have been a huge savings from schools being closed. Every state could have commissioned a university to put together a good online curriculum for every grade in the entire state instead of every teacher in every school district, often not computer savvy, putting together something. That would have taken care of the majority of students.Regular teachers could have supplemented state lectures and/or been put on part time status. With schools being largely unused, there should have been huge savings in the custodial and cafeteria staff. What were phys ed teachers doing with their time? All the money that should have been saved should be adequate to crack the windows and use more heat . Let’s vaccinate teachers and staffs so they can get back to work instead of living in fear.

    • There are different approaches to this problem. Franco de-unionized all of Spain in his time, and his techniques were highly effective. Worth considering.

  • I see fear as a major factor, but as an education admin here is my most difficult logistic. The rules put in place requiring quarantine and isolation for 10-14 days, along with the definition of close contact, mean that when I get a positive case, it can take out 7 teachers (even though they are not sick, and I heavily bet they will not get sick). Combine that with code requiring a sub or monitor in the classes, I just do not have enough subs available. I Could not care less about the unions, they are an obstacle, but our unelected officials in the public health offices have made this a nightmare.

  • The Democratic Party is owned by Big Labor, including teachers unions, and the plaintiffs bar. These two funders are the organ grinder and the party dances to their tune like monkeys on the organ grinder’s chain. As long as Big Labor and the lawyers who compose the plaintiffs bar are served by the Democrats, they do not care what else the party does. This is a short-term transactional relationship, renewed every time an important election comes around. Of course, conservatives, capitalists and Republicans play the same game. That is what politics in a free society is all about. Both political parties couch their priorities in highfalutin language tugging on the heart strings, only Democrats have evolved a much finer approach, having honed can’t-miss shibboleths like ‘it’s all about the children’ that even hardened conservatives may fall for. Democrats are much better at this than Republicans and their decades-long effort to distort public school curricula for the benefit of a high-tax command economy is becoming clearer election by election.

  • What you have stated is 100% truth. A few public school teachers care about kids first and doing what is right for kids first. The vast majority of public school teachers are not about kids at all other than to indoctrinate them in liberal thought.

  • Okay, so the minors only die from covid at a .05% rate, but what about the teachers? About 35% of all teachers are over 50.

    • According to John Ionnides, top Stanford epidemiologist, the chance of a healthy person <65 dying, is about the same as a 8-40 mile daily car commute. In other words, healthy teachers under 65 have a very, very low chance of dying of Covid. A few months ago, the WHO said that asymptomatic transmission is exceedingly rare. Transmission from children is almost unheard of.

  • Teachers have been pushing most of their work off onto parents and are therefore unneeded. Just start laying them off, watch how fast schools reopen.


  • De-unionizing public schools would be an improvement to what we have today, but it’s only a small step in the right direction. Government should get out of the education business altogether. It does a lousy, one-size-fits-all job. Parents should be responsible for educating their children themselves, or finding a private school that meets their children’s needs.

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