If you’ve been paying attention to the latest coronavirus debates, one of them has centered on exactly what to do about schools this fall.
On one side, you have teachers unions, many of which are currently saying they won’t participate in schools reopening. On the other hand, you have mountains of scientific data suggesting that coronavirus is not harmful to children but that keeping schools closed has incredibly dangerous consequences for them.
In a sane world, any decision on this topic would revolve wholly around the well being of students, but we don’t live in a sane world. That means teachers are putting their own needs above those they claim to serve, even when there’s no rational basis for it. The question is what should be done about it.
Sean Davis shared a good option today, one that I posited about a week ago on Twitter as well.
If government schools refuse to open in the fall, @realDonaldTrump should impound any federal funds appropriated for those schools/districts. Our school system exists to educate children, not pay adults who refuse to work. It's a simple choice: open schools, or forfeit funding.
— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) July 7, 2020
I’d even go a step a further. If you live in a community that uses property taxes to pay for schools (basically everywhere in the United States), you shouldn’t have to pay those taxes either. The service is not being rendered. In any other context, taking money for a service not rendered would be considered theft, and no, once a week zoom calls are not the same value as kids being able to actually go to school.
Any teacher that doesn’t want to teach this fall should be allowed to not teach. They should also not get paid, and if their position is ultimately replaced by someone willing to work, they should go to the back of the line for rehiring down the road. It’s one thing to pay their salaries during the peak of the virus. It’s another to have taxpayers held hostage eight months later by people who simply want an excuse to not do their jobs.
One of the safest places children and teachers could be this fall is back in school. A teacher out and about in town is far more likely to be infected than teaching a classroom full of eight year olds. There are professions with astronomically higher risk profiles that are already back at work. Why? Because society needs their services and we recognize that trade-offs must be made. Teachers are either important, integral parts of society or they aren’t. They can’t have it both ways.
On a base level, the harm being done to children by keeping them out of school far exceeds any minuscule risk they or their teachers (when using proper mitigation) face from coronavirus. Suicides among young people are up. Those with mental disabilities are being left behind and permanently scarred. Further, the very survival of the nation’s economy relies on parents being able to go out and make a living, which can’t happen if they still have their children at home in September. If there’s any job in the country that is essential right now, it’s teachers going back to their schools and doing what they are paid to do.
If they aren’t up for it, they should quit so someone else can be paid to replace them, not try to collect a check for actively avoiding doing their jobs.