(The opinions expressed in guest op-eds are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of RedState.com.)
When even Grandstander-in-Chief Dr. Anthony Fauci agrees the very real damage done by keeping students out of school outweighs the threat posed by an Omicron variant of COVID-19 widely recognized to be a less severe strain of the virus, the motives of those still arguing otherwise should be viewed with extreme suspicion.
But that’s exactly where the leaders of some of the nation’s largest and most politically active teachers’ unions find themselves — squarely in favor of fomenting needless panic at the expense of the youngsters whose welfare is supposed to come first.
To say nothing of the wishes of their parents.
Not surprisingly, Fauci’s blessing only comes with the proviso that parents “seriously consider vaccinating your children, wearing masks in the school setting (and) doing test-to-stay approaches when children get infected.”
But even encasing them in bubble wrap wouldn’t be enough to satisfy the union bullies.
On Friday, American Federation of Teachers in Massachusetts President Beth Kontos released a statement questioning the safety of returning to in-person learning after the holiday break.
“Massachusetts public school students and their families,” she said, “have struggled with the uncertainty and anxiety of the COVID pandemic for two years. They have the right to know … they are returning to safe schools. Given the ever-increasing infection rate and the virulent behavior of the current COVID strain, we know they will not.”
Like many virus mutations, omicron may be more easily spread than the original COVID-19 strain, but it’s clearly far less dangerous to those who contract it — as most fair-minded observers readily concede.
This week, for example, more than 2,000 schools across the country have prepared to close for at least one day. Even so, the number is significantly down from where we were a year ago.
As always, the exception to the rule is opportunistic teachers’ unions. To cite just a few examples:
* the New York City’s United Federation of Teachers union tried to close schools again this week, but the new mayor is insisting they remain open.
* the Unified Teachers of Los Angeles tried to kick out 34,000 school children for not getting vaccinated but had to reverse course in the face of intense public outrage;
* the Massachusetts Teachers Association tried to close schools this week, but the state said no;
* more than 150 Boston public school teachers called out sick, anyway; and,
* on Jan. 4, the Chicago Teachers Union defied the city’s school system by voting to shutter schools effective immediately until conditions are met either by a “substantial” decrease in omicron cases or Chicago Public Schools signs an agreement “establishing conditions for return that are voted on and approved by the CTU House of Delegates.”
Never mind that so-called “distance learning” typically results in little or no learning at all. As far back as December 2020, a Washington Post op-ed noted, “This remote learning debacle cannot continue — the costs will be too high. Schools are an essential service, and teachers are essential workers. If we continue to act otherwise, the consequences of the shuttered school buildings will likely haunt us for decades.”
Even worse are the health risks associated with online classwork. Studies report a separate epidemic of depression, substance abuse, and even suicide among students deprived of the opportunity to interact with their peers and participate in extracurricular activities.
None of which seems to faze union leaders, who prioritize their allegiance to a radical leftist agenda over any responsibility they might feel toward students and parents — or, for that matter, their own members who believe it’s time to stop posturing and return to the classroom.
But their continued political gamesmanship is facing backlash they didn’t experience this time last year.
Just this week, New York City Mayor Eric Adams responded to his city’s teachers’ union by declaring, “(T)he stats are clear. The safest place for children is inside a school.”
And following the Chicago Teachers’ Union vote to close schools, Mayor Lori Lightfoot responded, “I’m urging teachers. Show up to your schools. Your kids need you.”
An anecdote related almost a year ago in a USA Today article headlined, “Your kid might not return to a classroom this year. Are teachers’ unions to blame?” confirms the heartbreaking truth:
“David Moisl teaches kindergarten in San Francisco and has a child in first grade. He learned through media reports that his union doesn’t believe moving teachers to the front of the vaccine line is, on its own, enough to reopen schools. ‘I was under the impression that’s what would end this pandemic,’ Moisl said. ‘It feels like the light at the end of the tunnel has been extinguished.’”
If so, don’t blame scientists, doctors, students, or parents. It’s almost exclusively the fault of teachers’ unions that long ago abandoned any pretext of representing their rank and file or caring about education and today exist only to divert billions in member dues to their favorite liberal candidates and causes.
Millions of Americans began questioning “the science” at least a year ago, fed up with ever-changing CDC guidelines and self-serving teachers’ unions eager to keep schools closed to in-person instruction in cities and states whose school officials they control.
So what changed? A year of watching their children deteriorate has awakened a sleeping giant: Countless parents angry that teachers’ unions have revealed themselves to be little more than political opportunists focused on power rather than education.
The same elites who’ve done the teachers’ unions’ bidding for most of two years now sense the growing outrage, and they don’t want millions of parents going to the polls angry in the midterm elections.
Aaron Withe is the Chief Executive Officer of the Freedom Foundation.